Tired of all the bad news

While we can't deny the difficulites for so many people at home and overseas, it's important to take account of the positives, and to spread the Good News. I don't know who said this but; "No-one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side." Blessings..

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Holy Family

There are two different messages between Christmas day and St. Stephen’s Day. Christmas Day is predominantly about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Lord of all life. Almighty God came down into the human story as a little baby born in poverty, in a borrowed cave, and laid in a manger because there was no room at the inn.
On December 26th, the Church then celebrates the feast of its first martyr, Stephen. So, the liturgy goes from life to death in a sense. In the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen is one of the disciples filled with the Holy Spirit that will not stop preaching about the good news of Jesus Christ and those who oppose him want to put an end to him. He is stoned to death as he proclaims Christ and a young man called Saul entirely approves of the killing. Later we meet Saul as he too is transformed by Jesus Christ and becomes a champion of the Christian way.

So, in 24 hours its fitting that the Church shows in its liturgy the birth of Jesus Christ and what it means for the world, and how Stephen (and many others – even up to our time) witness to Jesus Christ by the shedding of their blood.

The feast of the Holy Family can be seen as a sign of contradiction too. In the Gospel today we see Jesus getting lost from the caravan of people travelling back to Nazareth from Jerusalem after the Passover. For three days his mother Mary, and Joseph are beside themselves with worry until they go back to Jerusalem and find him sat in the company of the doctors and experts of the law. Of course it must be hugely traumatic for Mary and Joseph after looking for him. Luke draws out the parallel between how the boy Jesus is missing for three days and later he will after his death on the cross be in the tomb for three days.

Let’s not get too caught up with the popular images of the Holy Family in that almost clinical and sterile way they can perhaps be portrayed. They had their struggles and fears. Just look at the infancy narratives of Luke’s gospel. They must be held up as a model for families today all over the world. Jesus, Mary and Joseph identify with the highs and lows of family life with all their complexities.

Look at the images coming from airports and ferry ports today as families are joyfully re-united for Christmas. There’s so much joy and excitement around the Christmas dinner table and the living room fireside. Yet, there can be tension and stress especially too as families make that extra effort. The Holy Family know that struggle. And as surely as our young people come back to the family for Christmas, there’s also the looming departure gates. I really pray that very soon our young people especially will be in a position to return home to Ireland if that’s what they want. For those that have made a new life and formed relationships overseas, may we always find new ways to make our world a smaller place.

I am also conscious of the families who will have an empty chair at the Christmas table. Families broken by emigration, unemployment, and death. The Holy Family of Nazareth, the model for all families, knows the struggles and sadness and Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are with all families as they face the new year with hope or fear.

May this Christmas time and 2016 be blessed for all. Amen. 

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Jesus Christ is the mercy of God...

Some people would say I like the sound of my own voice. I’m well able to talk and I can feel quite at home in any pulpit. Words usually come easily to me. One of my faults is that I don’t prepare very well to write a homily.

Therefore, I made a conscious decision to write a Christmas homily for our Masses in the parish and the friary. I wanted to say something about God coming into our human story as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem and how Jesus Christ is the true door of mercy for all. I wanted to attempt to tie it all in with the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Church. The Holy Father, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door in St. Peter’s in Rome on December 8th. Here in the Dublin archdiocese, Archbishop Martin opened the Jubilee Door of Mercy in the Pro Cathedral last Sunday.

In Pope Francis’ Document inaugurating the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy entitled Misericordiae Vultus, some lines really jumped out at me; for example, the Pope says; “Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope.” He goes on; “The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel.”

However, every time I tried to sit down to write something, I got distracted. I was called down to the parlour and the front office to meet different people and I also took a couple of phone calls.  At the same time, I was conscious that I needed to go out to buy some gifts for our valued helpers and volunteers in the friary and the parish. I sat in front of the computer screen and tried to put some words together based on some inspiring thoughts from Pope Francis and the minute I’d begin to get on a roll, the phone would ring.

On reflection, when I went to meet people in the parlour, at the front office, or on the phone, I became aware that I had an encounter each time with Christ. Someone came for confession and I was able to help them to begin again for Christmas.  Some people came for help of some kind or another and they needed me to give them a listening ear and spend some time with them. Someone who wanted to help Br. Kevin help the many that come to the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless. And we’ve been moved by the magnificent generosity of ordinary people.

St. Conrad of Parzham, (1818-1894) a Capuchin, said that when he was called away to the parlour he would respond with “Yes Lord” as if it was God himself that needed him. Blessed Mother Teresa in her ministry to the poorest of the poor used to say she just saw Jesus himself in a distressing disguise.

On Christmas Day, a Saviour has been born for us, He is Christ the Lord. We need to open our eyes to recognize him and our hearts to love him as he loves us very much and indeed Jesus Christ is the mercy of God. No one is forbidden to approach the crib, there’s a place for you there, and a welcome. Amen.