I wish a happy and grace-filled Christmas to every person in all the parishes in counties Cork and Kerry in the diocese of Kerry; from the baby 100 hours old to the one hundred year old, from the healthiest and strongest to the weakest and most pained, from the poorest to the richest. I am conscious of all the members of families now emigrated and all the immigrants who have become part of our communities.
My prayer this Christmas is that God bless all our homes. People are
under all sorts of pressure. As I wish happiness on every home in the
diocese, I am conscious of sadness in many homes – the sadness of family
members abroad for Christmas, the sadness caused by the breaking up of a
relationship or having no job, the sadness caused by the onset of
serious illness or the recent death of a loved one. May people amid such
sadness sense the Presence of Christ, his love, his grace, they are not
May Christmas be a time where people can set aside their troubles for a
few days and enjoy each other’s company. May we all relax and have some
laughter and fun and count our blessings. When we do that we sense that
we are not alone, that things will work out, that God is good. God will
see us through, there is Hope.
Jesus Christ is our Hope. The meaning of Christmas is Good News. In
celebrating Christmas we realise afresh that at the heart of everything,
of all creation, of all human existence is a God who freely loves his
creation and loves us all. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only
Son’. I often think that to get to the heart of Christmas one has just
to stop and gaze on the baby in the manger in the crib. Stop and gaze
and realise that this was God’s way of getting involved in our lives. He
is truly with us always.
In recent years I have come to appreciate afresh how Christian Santa
Clause is. Santa Clause testifies to every child that there is someone
out there who loves them and who wants to shower them with gifts and
fill their lives with goodness and that person wants nothing in return.
That someone is God our Father. Every gift a child receives from Santa
points to the loving generous God at heart of all creation. Our generous
God gives us literally everything, the gift of the world we have and
the gift of life itself.
All of us will remember 2013 for three famous people. Pope Benedict
retired as pope in February on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, World
Day of the Sick. That was a lovely gesture of solidarity with all who
are ill or advanced in years. A month later a new pope was elected, Pope
Francis from Argentina. He has sparked new life in all our faith. Then
this month Nelson Mandela died. Remembering the three together, surely
they call on us to honour God and to work for justice, human dignity,
and freedom from poverty for all.
2013 is also the year that I have come to you as your bishop. I thank
everyone in the diocese for the warm and kind welcome you have given me
over the past six months. Your strong faith is wonderful. Your coming
together as a community to ensure your parish has a rich and full life
is wonderful. I thank people and priests for the great energy and
endeavour I see everywhere.
The generosity of the people is very heartening, e.g. the support in
recent weeks for local charities such as St Vincent De Paul and KDYS
(Kerry Diocesan Youth Services) and also the Trocaire collection for
Syria and the Philippines. This Christmas, realising how much real need
there is all around us, try to have something to give to local charity
collections and try to be practical in the gifts you give to family and
friends. A practical gift can be a God-send.
A theme of my Ordination ceremony last July was, ‘St Brendan navigated
the seas, ours to tend the home shores’. These words honour the faith of
all our fore-bearers and also challenge the faith of our generation.
Christmas is a time when we renew our commitment to Jesus Christ. In our
time, when we can no longer take for granted the handing on of the
faith and sharing it with others, I invite any person who has drifted
from Sunday Mass to return to and join your local community in
celebrating it. In your Sunday have that space as time for pausing and
turning to God, who offers himself to each of us, ‘Take and eat this is
my body which will be given up for you’.
I also ask you this Christmas to pray for vocations. God will always
provide for the Church. Every parish knows the value of having the
presence of a priest. Pray that among our young adults some will hear
and respond to the call to full time service in our diocese as priests
or sisters. A vocation to ministry is not an easy life but it is a rich
and full one.
Finally I invite you to ponder with me some verses that will be God’s
Gospel Word for us on Christmas Day. They capture the mystery of God’s
love revealed in Jesus.
“The Word was made flesh, He lived among us, and we saw his glory,”(Jn
1) “So Joseph set out and travelled to the town of David called
Bethlehem . . and Mary gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped
him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. . . As for Mary, she
treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Lk 2)
A happy and a holy and peaceful Christmas to everyone.
Nollaig shona dhiobh go léir.
+ Ray Browne
Bishop of Kerry