This is the last Sunday but one before Christmas. Christmas is celebrated by everybody, but not everyone celebrates the same reality. Christians celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh and born in Bethlehem. Some give this feast a different name, for instance, ‘the snow feast’. Many celebrate without knowing what they are celebrating.
Christmas is the feast of the family. The Italians say it extremely well in a succinct way: Natale con i tuoi. In Malta this is still so to a large extent although many young people prefer to take some distance and celebrate with friends.
The idea of emphasising this family dimension of the Christmas celebration is not a bad one. After all, the aim of Christ’s coming into this world was precisely this, to make us one big family. This is what he had in mind when he spoke about the Kingdom, a world where peace, solidarity, justice, care for each other and mutual help is the order of the day.
This leads us to reflect on our country. In our national anthem we pray for unity in peace among the Maltese. Dun Karm too longed for the Maltese to live as one big family. Unfortunately, this we are not. I doubt whether in Malta there was ever as much polarisation and antagonism as we are experiencing today.
A fish rots from the head down. Those who are higher up in the hierarchy bear the greatest responsibility
Rivalry has always been part of our culture. Villages compete with other villages; band clubs with band clubs; parish feasts with parish feasts. However, I do not think this rivalry has ever polarised us as much as party politics have done. The internet is revealing how much we despise each other. We have become totally incapable of discussing issues. The only thing we can do is point fingers and attack people personally.
Honestly seeking the common good does not seem to be the top priority of our politicians who seem to give much more attention to defeating their opponents. To some extent it has always been like this but now it has gotten out of hand and reached unimaginable heights.
Practically each and every one of us is responsible for this situation because we are all living and growing in this contaminated field. However, as the saying goes, a fish rots from the head down. Those who are higher up in the hierarchy bear the greatest responsibility. Politicians should always express their views but should do this while sticking to issues rather than becoming personal, which is undoubtedly a sign of weak arguments.
The media of the political parties also need to conduct some soul searching. Journalism is a noble profession. Like the prophets, journalists need to take a distance from the muddle and give an objective picture of what is happening, where it is taking us and what corrections we need to make. Not much of this is happening in the media of the political parties. We have two fortresses continuously firing volleys at each other.
Such journalism does not help the Maltese people grow. Hopefully, the large majority remains impervious to such tactics. Although the continuous hammering of criticism of opponents leaves its marks on those exposed to it, little by little we can learn to distinguish between issues and the allegiance of people and to respect others even when we disagree with them.
Above all, hopefully, all of us – those whose Christian faith is wavering included – may continue to believe that Christmas cannot be celebrated without holding on to Christ’s values.
Fr Alfred Micallef is a member of the Society of Jesus.