Father Andy Hamilton SJ

These have been hard days in a hard world, haven’t they?

They favour hard people who wear masks and helmets, carry clubs, and lock their purses.

We had hoped that the Referendum on the Indigenous Voice would be a celebration of peace and reconciliation, a gentling of the community. Instead, it was a bitter time with the bitter fruit of rancour and division.

We had hoped that the war in Ukraine with its daily news of bombing, shelling, and people dead or made homeless would soon end. Then came the hard men killing and snatching hostages in Israel, and bombing civilians in Gaza. In the face of such hard news, it is difficult not to harden ourselves, shut out the world, and bolt closed the gates of our castle. We are tempted to withdraw into ourselves.

And yet we do not do this. We allow the suffering and anger of our Indigenous brothers and sisters to reproach us and to touch our own hearts. We imagine the outrage and terror of people fleeing from men with guns, the distress of cowering under a rain of bombs in a block of flats, and the despair when hearing helplessly the crying of children calling out for water that we are prevented from giving them.

Allowing ourselves to feel, opens our hearts in compassion.

In doing this, we encounter people who also carry bruises like our own and do not lose heart. We ask how we might accompany people who are hurt, help open hearts that are closed, plead the cause of those at risk of death and hunger, and soothe the wounds of those who are rejected.

As we come close to those who are denied respect, perhaps we might also glimpse a harder truth: that we must also respect people with whom we differ, listen to people whose opinions we loathe, and r each out to our natural enemies.

In hard times, the path to reconciliation is one of taking off armour, of unclenching fists.

It begins with hope and sees it spread.