Monsignor Michael Ryan
Christmas is a time of hope. Into this uncertain world where every human being, however powerful is vulnerable, Christ was born, “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1. Cor. 1. 24).
In the infant of Bethlehem, God became part of human history. He shared the vulnerability of a child just as later he shared the pain of rejection, torture and an unjust death. This Christmas we are invited to go in spirit back to Manger Square in Bethlehem and to give thanks that the meaning of human history is to be found in the most unlikely places where our Saviour was born.
“Let us make room in our heart and in our day for the Lord. Each Christian family can first of all – as Mary and Joseph did – welcome Jesus, listen to Him, speak with Him, guard Him, protect Him, grow with Him, and in this way improve the World.” Pope Francis, Christmas 2014.
Christmas is, in a very special way, a time for families; we reconnect with our own and visit so many others. As you may know, Dublin has been chosen by Pope Francis to host the next World Meeting of Families from 21-26 August 2018. Held every three years, this major international event will bring together families from across the world to celebrate, pray and reflect upon the central importance of marriage and the family as the cornerstone of our lives, of society and of the Church. It is appropriate then, as our preparations for this great event intensify, that we spend some time this Christmas reflecting on what families mean to us. As we reconnect with our own family, and as we think also of those from our families who are not with us, we realise how much they have given us. Mirroring the life of the Trinity we establish our identities through the indwelling we have with those we love. It is this closeness that in turn allows us to move out confidently into the world.
It is, therefore, in a real sense the gospel of our families which becomes the joy for the world. We stand today as the people we are thanks to the support and love we get from our families. As Pope Francis observed “in the family, among siblings, human coexistence is learned, how one must live in society.
Perhaps we are not always aware of it, but the family itself introduces fraternity into the world!”
His Christmas “let us cross the threshold of this tranquil home, with its family sitting around the festive table” (Pope Francis Amoris Laetitia 9). As we do “return" home we can take time to appreciate our family, to consider how they have shaped us to be the people we have become. Each of the members of our families offer us something different. On occasion that individual contribution can be lost in the collective. Maybe, as we gather this year we can try to identify what it is that each one has given us: for some it will be support, for others laughter, for others guidance, and others sustenance... memories of what they have given us for which we are thankful, gifts given and received. In fact, these gifts are often too numerous to recall, they are a blurred collective now which sustain us and encourage us in our world each day.
On occasion our families too can be difficult places. Sometimes those with whom we are closest can challenge us. Imagine how it must have been for Joseph and Mary in their “Christmas” days.
The Holy Family, whom we reflect upon in these weeks, can model for us support, and offer to us the example of trust, prayer and resilience, so necessary in our families today.
This Christmas we invite them to continue to be a part of our story as we draw strength from them and hope from the message they offer.