Christmas, more than any other time, is a ‘family time’. Unfortunately, perhaps, like me, you know of families where there is conflict and perhaps this Christmas, because of that, some families will not be all together celebrating and sharing meals. As we enter into Christmas, I thought I would share some thoughts on ‘family’ from Pope Francis. He says that in families, it is important to say and mean “please”, “thank you”, and “sorry”. Three essential words! We say please so as not to be forceful in family life: “May I please do this? Would you be happy if I did this?” Pope Francis goes on to say, “We do this with a language that seeks agreement. We say thank you, thank you for love!” Honestly though, how many times do you or I say thank you to our spouse or partner? How many days go by without uttering “thanks”? What about the last word: “sorry”?
We all make mistakes and on occasion someone gets offended in the family. Pope Francis said, “harsh words are spoken but please listen to my advice: don’t ever let the sun set without reconciling. “Please forgive me”, and then you start over. Please, thank you, sorry! Let us say these words in our families! To forgive one another each day!”
Francis goes on to say that people should listen to and learn from their grandparents as well.
“Grandparents are like the wisdom of the family; they are the wisdom of a people! A people that does not listen to grandparents is one that dies! Listen to your grandparents. Like the Holy Family of Nazareth, every family is part of the history of a people; it cannot exist without the generations who have gone before it. Therefore, today we have grandparents and children. The children learn from their grandparents, from the previous generation.” I know when I was a youngster; at times it was easier to speak to my grandparents rather than my parents. Was it wisdom? Patience? Understanding?
We have been fortunate in doing some travelling and trying to broaden our horizons by educating ourselves about other cultures, groups and customs. We try to see things from different angles and viewpoints. My wife and I adopted a child through World Vision. Nomvelo is an 8-year-old girl living in Zimbabwe where because of poor conditions the life expectancy is only 44! I think we have a lot to learn from Nomvelo because as caring humans, we are all apart of her family!
One Boxing Day, some years ago, we were fortunate to visit the Holy Land, and saw two precious religious sites. The most famous Islamic site in Jerusalem is the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock can be seen from all over Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque, but a Muslim shrine as it is built over a sacred stone. This stone is believed to be the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. The Muslim family holds this place as precious as the Jewish family holds the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which is the holiest of Jewish sites. It is sacred because it is a remnant of the retaining wall that once enclosed and supported the Second Temple. It has also been called the “Wailing Wall” by European observers because for centuries Jews have gathered here to lament the loss of their temple. Needless to say we were equally impressed with both sacred sites! It saddens us today to see how Donald Trump has discounted the fact that Jerusalem is equally important to both Jews and Muslim families during this time of peace and goodwill to all.
Maybe it is time to say thank you for these holy sites, and to please preserve them and to say we are sorry for not appreciating how equally precious these sites are to many, many families!
Tradition tells us that an angel appeared to the Shepherds saying, “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will”. May we all be of good will and restore peace on Earth.