The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said:
“Get up, take the child and his mother with you and escape into Egypt”.
Because of the situation of violence and the imminent threat of death to their son, Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to flee from their country and family, and go to a foreign land where they settled and made a new beginning. This terrible event happened over two thousand years ago – and it is still happening. I ask myself the question,
“If the Holy Family had come to Ireland, would we have made them welcome, would have greeted them with a Céad Míle Fáilte?
Recently, I was listening to the radio and was saddened by what I heard: “There are over ten million refugees in the world, and more than ten thousand of them are in Ireland.” We have only to think of the ugly protests against ‘the Immigrants and the Asylum Seekers’, which we witnessed recently. We saw the outbursts of angry people in Ballinamore, Achill, and in Oughterard. What would we have done if we found ourselves in similar circumstances? On whose side would we have been?
And it is not only in Ireland that there can often be a lack of welcome and acceptance and an unwillingness to receive strangers, especially those from far-off places who have been forced to leave their countries, very often parting from their families and leaving behind all their possessions.
It was the eve of the New Millennium and I was working in Brasil on a pastoral team with the Divine Word priests. To celebrate this momentous event, some parishioners from every one of their parishes, had been invited to Iguape in the State of Sao Paulo. They came in their hundreds, and the huge assembly was gathered together in a massive arena for the celebration of Mass. What joy, peace and happiness was experienced there as we all put our hearts into singing the Liturgy.
We started to sing the Gospel Acclamation “Alleluia, the Word became flesh and lives among us”, and as we were proclaiming the Word of God, an enormous globe of the world was trundled in and pushed up the centre of the Arena. As it arrived at the altar, the priest held aloft the Gospel and started to read: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He came to his own ….” He paused and they opened up the globe inside of which was a small child, who crawled out from inside. A gasp went round the assembled throng as the priest continued, “But the world received Him not!” I will never forget that moment when the meaning of the Incarnation, of Emmanuel, God is with us, was brought home to me.
So, as we celebrate this New Year, and reflect upon this Feast of the Holy Family, let us remember in our prayers all those people all over the world and especially here in our own country, who have had to flee from their families and homelands. Let us pray for ourselves that we may welcome them warmly and do all we can to help them in their loneliness and suffering.
MAY YOU ALL BE BLESSED WITH EVERY PEACE, HEALTH AND BLESSING IN THE NEW YEAR AND THROUGHOUT 2020. Sr. Padraigín Mc Kenna OP