Dear friends. In an interview last week, actor Tom Hanks who is well known to us in Wexford having spent time here filming ‘Saving Private Ryan’ in 1997, warned that there is an epidemic of loneliness in America and a ‘lack of social structure’ that is causing people misery and sadness. But it’s not just in America. It’s here too, especially here in the West.
At Christmas we sing: ‘Tis the season to be jolly’. But while Christmas might be a jolly season for some, it isn’t for all. The truth is that for many, Christmas is a lonely time of year for different reasons. There can be a sense of disconnection from others – from loved ones who have died; friends we lost along the way; children and grand-children who live far from home; a broken relationship that has left us scarred and wounded; living many miles from home in temporary accommodation with an uncertain future like thousands of our friends from Ukraine here among us this Christmas. For many, there is a disconnection from our true selves and even from God. Yet we don’t quite know what to do about it or even where to start.
But here is the good news of Christmas. It starts with God’s gift of his Son to the world, his gift of saving love to you and me. On that first Christmas, Christ was born in the darkness in the midst of uncertainty and poverty. He came to tell us that we matter, that we are loved and that God is with us always as he promised. In return, all he asks of us is that we accept him, believe in him and make him and his kingdom the unambiguous centre of our lives. He also came to save us from loneliness and the sense of alienation that afflicts many at Christmas. Christ came to connect with us intimately at the level of soul; he came to connect us to our true selves and connect us to each other in community. In the words of Pope Francis in the very first paragraph of ‘The Joy of the Gospel’:
“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew”.
Here is the antidote to the epidemic of loneliness. It all starts with our encounter with Christ and the deep friendship he wants us to enjoy with him. If this is not in place then no amount of drink, drugs, pleasure or amusement can ever replace it.
Friends, as we celebrate another Christmas, all of us at 'The Hook of Faith' invite you to ‘Come Home for Christmas’ – to come home to our faith community to which we belong. We invite you to re-connect with the God who loves us and declares that we matter, more than we know. Make Christ the centre of your life. Seek first his kingdom and everything else will be added.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE AND THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING US!!
Fr Billy Swan