In the ancient Jewish Book of Micah there is a significant prediction. The prophet Micah in chapter five of his book said that someone would come from Bethlehem to “shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord” (Micah 5:4). Over many centuries the Jewish people considered Bethlehem, the city of David, to be a place of hope and peace.
How unlike the Bethlehem of today! The city that once held the promise of hope for a peaceful world is now a place were violence and bloodshed are witnessed almost daily. It is the site of violent incursions of Israelis against Palestinians and Palestinians against Israelis.
Whereas Bethlehem was once a symbol of hope it is now a symbol of despair. The juxtaposition between hope and despair is a reality that we all live with from time to time. It is the “bipolar” reality of life but, because of the Christmas event we are about to celebrate, we know that hope always triumphs over despair.
This triumph was experienced by that wonderful Australian woman Mary Mackillop. She believed that undereducated children, living in rural and remote places throughout this country, could have a better life. That was for her a great hope. Nevertheless her despair for those children, like her despair for disadvantaged and abandoned women, was very real. At first no one, not even the hierarchy of the Church to which she belonged and believed in, would embrace her hope for a more dignified life for thousands of women and children throughout Australia
In spite of her despair, her belief that Jesus became a human being, enabled her hope ultimately to triumph.
Mary Mackillop is a person to think of this Sunday before Christmas 2018. Her life teaches us that the birth of Jesus means that dreams can come true and that hope always triumphs over despair for we who believe that God actually became one of us in Bethlehem.