By Sarah Mac Donald - 24 December, 2015
In his Christmas message, Bishop Seamus Freeman of Ossory has noted how it can sometimes be difficult to say the words, “Happy Christmas”, knowing that it will not be a happy Christmas for so many – the sick, the unemployed, the bereaved, the troubled.
Wishing the faithful in his diocese a ‘Blessed Christmas’, Bishop Freeman said it was a time to celebrate the great spiritual gift of life in all its abundance.
“We do so by living in communion with one another, by showing love, mercy and compassion to the other,” he said.
However, the Bishop of Ossory also warned that today, in our modern world, particularly at Christmas, we can observe “a sort of rivalry between the material gift and the spiritual gift”.
But he underlined that human effort alone cannot save us, and ultimately cannot build a better world.
In the Diocese of Raphoe, Bishop Philip Boyce said, “Faced with the tragedy of many people becoming homeless in our country and the multitude of refugees and asylum seekers entering Europe as they flee from persecution and warfare, we do need God’s mercy.”
Urging the faithful to become merciful, he recalled the words of Pope Francis, “A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”
In their joint Christmas message, the Bishops of Clogher, Dr Liam MacDaid and Dr John McDowell said recent photographs of refugee scenes had “jolted us into at least a low level of understanding of the extent of the refugee problem throughout our world”.
We have evidence of our own country’s problems before our eyes if we open our hearts, the two bishops added.
“There were men and women of a particular kind who regularly commanded the attention of Jesus as he traversed the roads of his homeland. We cannot contemplate these happenings without asking ourselves why the Son of God would choose to be born into a family that was poor and lived in a setting of exclusion.”
The Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops of Clogher also underlined how often the humanity and heroism of the ‘non-religious’ bring our understanding of solidarity to a point of action.
They pointed out the extraordinary mystery in Jesus’ sharing so completely in our humanity that we, as a result, share in his divinity.
Dr Noel Treanor of Down and Connor said in his message that our thoughts and prayers are particularly with the homeless and the families who have fled Syria and the Middle East as refugees and are now living among us this Christmas.
Their life-risking journeys were marked and threatened at times by conflict and suspicion, human tragedy and indifference, he noted.
These and other current humanitarian crises challenge and compel all of us to reach out to our brothers and sisters in need, Bishop Treanor said, as he paid tribute to the many people and organisations who have offered support and voluntary service in response to the needs of others within the Diocese of Down and Connor and beyond.
On an upbeat note, Bishop John Fleming of Killala writes in his message that, “In these cold, dark days of mid-winter the cold which we experience is giving a kick start to the flowers which will herald the joy of spring with snowdrops, daffodils and tulips.”
“Therefore, in this season of darkness, shoots of hope are already on the way” while the Jubilee of Mercy, which has just begun, also gives us a new opportunity for hope.