Christmas Message from Bishop Tom Deenihan
Bishop of Meath
As Christmas approaches, I pray God’s blessing on the people of the Diocese of Meath for the forthcoming joyful season and the New Year ahead.
The Coming of Christ, over two thousand years ago, changed the course of human history and, of course, the word ‘Christmas’ itself means the ‘Feast of Christ’.
Let us celebrate Christmas this year!! Christmas is, above all, a religious feast when we commemorate the love of God for us, manifested by the sending of his only Son to a stable at Bethlehem. While there are worthwhile and beneficial social as well as economic consequences, a Christmas celebration without reference to Christ is both meaningless and empty. Christmas cannot be reduced to a ‘Happy Holiday’ or a celebration devoid of Christ. It is unfortunate that the essentials of Christmas, the infant Jesus, the Crib and Christmas worship are often set aside. The feast of Christmas is the most inclusive of all feasts, God made Man to lead us to God! This year, let us try to keep Christ at the centre of our Christmas and let us try to imitate, as best we can, the generosity of the God who became man for us.
Christmas is also a family time. In a few days, the radios stations, TV channels and newspapers will tell of busy roads, hectic airports and crowded ferry ports. Everyone tries to get home for Christmas. The recent recession has meant that many of our young and not so young people have left their native land in search of employment and have yet to return. Christmas can heighten the sense of loneliness for those who are away and for those who remain. I think particularly of parents and grandparents.
Those who are recently bereaved also find Christmas a difficult time as do those who are ill. May Christ be present to all who are suffering or alone this Christmas and to those who are bereaved and who are ill. They are and must be very much in our prayers at this time.
The message of Christmas is one of love, hope, joy and peace. Christ came as a child for each one of us, to lead us to God.
Christmas is the great family feast and, as such, it offers a time to resolve family differences. The Christmas Carol, Silent Night, which is two hundred years old this Christmas, was famously sung in the trenches during World War One and signalled a truce in hostilities, regardless of how short. Perhaps that spirit of Peace and Goodwill might prompt us to settle differences this year?
The story of the first Christmas is also one of a young couple looking for accommodation. That story is being retold in our time and in our Diocese. Recent media commentary on the testimony of those who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, particularly that of a ‘Youtube’ posting of a young girl in Dublin, shocks us all. I pray that the year ahead will see significant progress in resolving this dreadful problem of our time.
Like everyone else, I applaud those who have given of their time and resources over the past years to ease the burden on others. Christmas provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge and support the wonderful work that many of these agencies provide. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and those who volunteer on our Lourdes Pilgrimage are but a very small example of those who embody the compassion of Christ in our midst. Their work is very much appreciated.
This year was memorable in that it witnessed the visit of Pope Francis and the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. The Diocese of Meath was well represented in terms of the Choir, Volunteers and at the Festival of Families in Croke Park. The event was a memorable festival of Faith and the testimonies of the families in Croke Park was particularly memorable. I thank most sincerely those who contributed their time, talents and resources in making the event the success that it was.
On a more personal note, this year was memorable for me too in that it saw my appointment by Pope Francis to this diocese. While the appointment is daunting, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the priests, religious and people of the Diocese for their welcome and kindness. I am slowly making my way around the Diocese and look forward to visiting the remaining parishes during the Confirmations which begin in February.
I pray that the joy, hope and peace of the first Christmas may be present in our Dioceses this Christmas. I pray that all families will experience the warmth of the family celebration and that the celebration of Christmas will be a Christian celebration that will support and increase our faith. Let us never forget that the coming of Christ means for each one of us that we have a future, even when this life is ended, and that we are loved, uniquely, by God.
May God bless you and yours this Christmas and may 2019 be a year of blessing for us all.