Inspiration for Family Life…
“The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”
Christmas is referred to as the great family feast. It is a time for family reunions, for family reconciliation, time for family sharing. It is indeed a special time for children, for parents, for families.
What we are really celebrating of course is the birthday of Jesus… the birth of our Saviour. God fulfils all the hopes of the past with the entry of his Son into our world. God gives Himself to the world. God becomes one of us in order to restore all humanity to Himself. This is awesome. And yet it is simple.
How does God come into our world? As a baby. He is born in Bethlehem. He enters into the family of Mary and Joseph. Today we celebrate the Feast of this Holy Family. We celebrate the mystery of the child Jesus living with his parents.
That family too, like so many families today, has its own crises to deal with. Even at His birth there were problems – no place for him at the Inn. The Gospel recounts the threat from Herod and the necessary exile of the family until the threat is gone. But there were other difficulties too – the warning about suffering that would be the lot of the child later was given by Simeon at the Presentation in the Temple – and when the child was twelve we find his distraught parents searching for their missing son. Today – in this country with the highest growth rate in the EU – we have families put out of their homes; families divided for different reasons – arguments, abuse of alcohol and other drugs, unemployment, emigration…
The images we saw in recent weeks and months on TV of people – [women, babies, young children and men] being rescued by Irish Navy and other ships or arriving in rickety boats at European ports, walking the roads in southern Europe – these should help us think about what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph as they were forced to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, finding no welcome and then, after the birth of Jesus, having to flee south to a foreign land to escape the evil intentions of Herod. The image of a glowing fire at Christmas and every one dressed up and feeling happy – that is the complete opposite to the reality of that first Christmas. Today, many people, despite their own family problems, can draw hope, consolation and inspiration from the family of Nazareth.
Let us pray for all families, giving thanks to God first of all for the family from which we come.
Let us also pray for families in difficulties of varying sorts. Above all let us pray for them that, even though there problems can appear insurmountable, they do not to lose hope in the presence of God with them.