Bishop Francis Duffy. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
As I look back on 2018 the high point of the year for me was the visit of Pope Francis to the World Meeting of Families. During his visit Pope Francis said “the World Meeting of Families has given us great hope and encouragement that families are growing more and more conscious of their own irreplaceable role in passing on the faith”. For him family is a key aspect of life.
Christmas is a family time, a time for all generations, just as the first Christmas was such a family moment, not just the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph but for the entire family of God, all people of all generations.
At Croke Park Pope Francis reminded us that a society that does not value grandparents will end up lacking that quality that really matters - love. This is a love and dream that so many, including our parents and grandparents, lived out in the dream and reality of marriage. Pope Francis encouraged each married person to keep repeating in their heart: “I will never fail you or forsake you!” They are the same sentiments God has for his people (Heb 13: 5).
The Christmas story is so familiar and yet it always seems fresh. There is the good news of a baby, the good news of a birth and good news of a bright future for all humanity. The Christmas story has expectation, joy and great hope for the future. But side by side with these positive elements are darker ones, uncertainty, vulnerability and danger.
The circumstances of the birth of the Saviour were not at all easy for baby or parents. That is the way life often is. Side by side with great joy there can be sorrow, alongside hopes there can be fears, accompanying successes is sometimes failure. So the darker side, the vulnerable side of Christmas, is nothing new. It is very human and realistic that these contrasting emotions and circumstances coexist. Mary decided to invite the ‘source of peace’ to enter our world. Let us do the same.
I wish you and your family members a happy Christmas, a peaceful and hopeful experience, as we remember the birth of our Saviour.
Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois