Saturday, December 27, 2014

CHRISTMAS IS FAMILY by Fr Cedric Prakash sj

-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

Christmas will soon be here and what should be uppermost in the hearts and the lives of every single Christian is the first family of all mankind: Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

Joseph, as foster-father of Jesus was entrusted the heavy responsibility of caring and protecting both Mary and the child Jesus, the Son of God.  By profession, he was a skilled carpenter and if we go by what tradition tells us, his professional skills were much in demand.  Above all, we are told that he was a just man. We also understand that he always had time for Mary and Jesus.

Then there is Mary, the woman who had the courage to say “yes” to the will of God which transformed the course of history.  She was indeed a woman of substance, who was unflinching in the face of all odds. Which mother would like that her child be born in a stable after constant rejection from those who could have given her that privacy and care which she needed during the time of her delivery?  Which mother would like to carry the lifeless body of her son in her arms after he has been battered and bruised because of hate and ingratitude? Above all, which woman would take on the mantle of motivating and inspiring a listless and despondent bunch of men for forty days before the Holy Spirit descends upon them? Mary was all this and more: caring, compassionate and of course being a complete mother to Jesus. 

And finally, baby Jesus. It is not easy for any child anywhere in the world to be born in filth and squalor with only animals surrounding him. But this baby is in fact the heart of Christmas. There would certainly have been no Christmas if this Second Person of the Holy Trinity had not agreed to accept the will of the Father.

So Christmas is about family: the first family of mankind, about our family today.  The Catholic Church has just completed the first phase of the Bishop’s Synod on the family. Several issues have cropped up during this Synod; however, as something very foundational, Pope Francis and the Church continue to speak about the need and importance of an ‘education to love’. This is in fact a non-negotiable, something which we see reflected in the Holy Family; inspite of the difficulties they are faced with they continue to genuinely love and support one another.

On October 28th 2013 in an address to families gathered in Rome for the Pontifical Council for the Families Plenary Assembly, Pope Francis invited all Christian families throughout the world “to live the joy which comes from faith.” He went on further to say that, “what is burdensome in life is a lack of love in the family.” Pope Francis is certainly on target on this matter. Let’s take a look around and see the many families are broken; within the family, no one seems to have time for each other; even when one is physically there, many are glued to the T.V.  The traditional family meals together (at least once a day) seems to be a thing of the past and so many of our families no longer have the time to say the daily Rosary or even a little prayer together. The elderly are often woefully neglected.

Many today are caught up with the business of living; for our poorer families, it may be important as a means of survival; but for those who already have plenty, there is as Pope Francis reminds us in his ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ “the new idolatry of money”. We tend to be caught up with our consumeristic society where material matters more than persons; where “having” becomes more important than “being”.

Christmas is a time to put back that joy, love, harmony and peace into our lives and in our families. Many of us maybe caught up in the materiality of Christmas. We don’t even realise that a highly consumeristic  and idolatrous society has relegated Christmas to Santa Clauses, Christmas trees, decorations, new clothes, eating, drinking and merry-making. The tragedy is that, all this has really nothing to do with the birth of Jesus.

So Christmas is a great occasion indeed to try to mainstream the values of Mary and Joseph: of caring and of compassion, of protecting and of promoting, of love and of fellowship, of justice, peace and joy.  It is surely a time during which, we as family, can help put baby Jesus and all that he embodies – back into Christmas!

4th December, 2014

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Saffron Hotel, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052

Phone: (079) 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  (079) 27489018                             

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