At this special time of the year people look to the Christmas story to be enlightened by a life-giving message of hope, meaning and inspiration. It is my privilege to offer some thoughts and a seasonal blessing to the readers of the Clare Champion.
Christmas is a time of memories, and reflection. The festive season is a good time to look back on the happenings of the year just gone and savour the memories. In doing so we appreciate and relish the good times while acknowledging the times of challenge as well. Who would have thought this time last year that we would still be living with Covid 19 and all it’s many challenges?
We remember and pray for all who continue to be affected with illness, bereavement, losses and sadness of many kinds. We continue to salute and thank those who look after us so well, especially our heroic carers, all who work in the various services that mind us so well. Without them our quality of life would not be nearly as good as it is. We long for, pray earnestly for a brighter time when more normal human interaction can resume and flourish again.
A number of positive things stand out in the year just past. One is the realisation and resolve by world leaders at COP26 of the urgent necessity to care for our planet. Another being the launch of the Synodal Pathway, journeying together towards a better Church at local, national and international level. I look forward to engaging with that in the new year. I am so thankful and appreciative for the great work that continues to be done by clergy and laity in our many parishes. The commissioning of our 24 New Lay Ministers next Easter is a great source of hope and encouragement.
During the season of Advent we prepared diligently in so many ways. In those days I reflected often on the encouraging words of pope Francis from a recent publication Let us Dream, that our waiting during Advent is in the mind, thinking with the season, our waiting is in the heart, feeling in tune with the season and our waiting is in the feet, doing things for other people.
Christmas is a time to look out for those around us. It is a time when we can reach out, in Christian spirit, with care, concern, compassion, with God-inspired love and action. By its very nature the good news of the birth of our saviour demands a voice to be shared and passed on! We remember the many less fortunate than ourselves at home and abroad. We think and pray for our emigrants at this time, especially those who cannot travel to be with us yet again this year. May the many New Irish now resident in our land continue to be made part of our community of traditional welcomes. May all lives be cherished, protected and cared for, especially the most vulnerable – from the beginning of life to natural death.
As Christians, we are people of indomitable hope and people of joy. We long for that same hope and joy and love at the heart of the Gospel. We need that very much, especially at challenging times like this. A glimpse of this unswerving hope was revealed to many in the courage and fortitude displayed by Charlie Bird in his battle with Motor Neuron Disease and his plans for the future. No matter what happens to us in life, as people of faith we carry this hope with us because of the Christ-event, the coming of Jesus Christ in the Incarnation, the Word made flesh.
Christianity is a challenging message. It’s one of give and take. We take the love of God, but what do we give back? Christina Rossetti puts it well in her simple yet profound poem:
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part –
Yet what can I give Him?
Give my heart.
In the much quoted words of Brendan Kennelly, RIP, it is a good time to renew our commitment and start afresh with full heart; “something that will not acknowledge conclusion insists that we forever begin”.
At this special time of the year, this time of profound religious meaning I pray that the message of the Christ-Child would be reborn in our homes, in our hearts this Christmas season. I wish you the gladness of Christmas – hope. I wish you the spirit of Christmas – peace. I wish you the heart of Christmas – love.
Peace, joy, health, happiness, along with many blessings and graces to all for a joyful, fulfilling, meaningful and a happy new year in 2022. Beannachtaí na Nollaig agus ath-bhliain faoi shéan is faoi mhaise do na léitheoirí ar fad!
+ Fintan Monahan, Bishop of Killaloe
Clare Champion Article 22nd of December 2021