I am delighted to have this opportunity to greet you and your families as we prepare for the great feast of Christmas. For many, especially the young, it is a time that is filled with wonder and joy. However, even if we are of the age when Santa no longer visits us, we can fill our hearts with the excitement we see around us. There is no better way to get inside the Christmas story than to see it with the eyes of a child. Sometimes as adults we hear the phrase “its only for the children” and indeed there is a truth in that. But really, it is something for us all. Because what we are celebrating is the birth of a baby – and not just any baby – but the birth of the Saviour who would show us that the way to eternal life for each of us is our human life that began when we were formed in the womb.
During the past year, the work in our Diocese of Ferns has been to re-establish pastoral life in our parishes as the effect of the pandemic dies down. Occasions of joy like weddings and baptisms, First Holy Communions and Confirmations have recaptured the energy that was there before Covid. Also, as God’s people, we have come together again as communities to help people grieve at the time of a funeral. We have also as a Diocese responded to Pope Francis invitation to be a SynodalChurch, that is, a church that listens especially to those on the margins of church or society. An image that fits Pope Francis’ call is the image of the Great News of Christ’s birth coming first to the shepherd, the least of people in the world into which Jesus was born.
As we send messages of hope and joy to people, we are conscious that not every life is filled with happiness. Many people in our parishes are feeling the strain of perhaps inflation or homelessness, and indeed many worry about the future and even the simple task of heating their homes. If you are moved by the needs of others, especially families with children, then the St Vincent DePaul organization would be delighted to hear from you. They are the outreach of our church here in the Diocese to those who are in the most need.
Last year, I acknowledged the work and sacrifice of frontline workers in the face of the pandemic. We have become used to the comings and goings of the pandemic at this stage but the work of those at the frontline continues, particularly in our health services. I wish, on your behalf, to thank them for their work and dedication and I ask that those of us who are well would take every precaution to avoid the spread of disease and so lighten the burden on our health services.
Christ brought hope into the world by his life and teaching. He especially brought that hope to those who were outsiders, those who were excluded. Hope is the gift of helping someone to look forward to tomorrow. With God’s help our words and our actions will give a sense of that hope to the people with whom we share this special time.
I wish everyone a blessed and happy Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year.