2009 Christmas Message  -  Find my Family
Not long ago on TV there was a programme called €˜Find My Family€™. It proved very popular and many people were touched by the tragic stories of separation and rejoiced with the individuals that discovered each other again. To be without any ancestry can and does have a prevailing effect on the lives of individuals who experience these situations. They hunger to know where they came from, who abandoned them and why.

They travel through life with this hidden yearning - perhaps even at times saying it doesn'€™t matter '€“ but the overwhelming change that takes place in their lives when they are reconnected with their family proves beyond doubt how important family roots are and how it matters to know that you belonged to someone and that you were loved.

Various cultures around the world also find meaning in the connections with their past and often suffer when those connections are severed. It would be fair to say that the cultural existence of the present is heavily influenced by the past, providing reasons why people do the things they do.

This is certainly true of the Jewish people. All the traditions and stories (found in the Old Testament) of their culture have given rise to a proud and gifted nation today. In fact it is the power of the past that can cause great strength in a nation as is demonstrated in the nations involved in the Middle East. Unfortunately this strength is also a cause of divide and conflict among these nations.

Recently I was privileged to have been in the Holy Land for two months during my sabbatical. I say privileged because there are so many people around the world that desire, but cannot afford, to see for themselves this sacred homeland, for us as Christians as well as for the Israeli and Palestinian people.

To go there was like reconnecting with the ancient history of the Old & New Testament and the members of our family of faith. It was a tremendous and humbling experience to visit these areas and to contemplate and relive the great moments of the story of our salvation. When God revealed himself by taking on our human condition and experience, he showed us how much he loved us.

To experience the culture, the climate and the terrain helped me to tap into the experiences of the biblical characters and be profoundly moved to understand them even more at a deeper level.  To enter into the nativity story at the place it actually happened is truly a religious experience. The opportunity to celebrate Mass for the first time there was a unique joy.

One special and powerful time to connect more deeply with family and to rediscover our roots is at Christmas. As we celebrate Christ'€™s birth in our church we have a deeper experience of belonging to a big family of God '€“ across various races and ages. In Jesus we are all truly sisters and brothers and his Father is Father of us all.  St Paul summed it up simply in one line, '€œall of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other'€ (Rom12:5)

Many families make special efforts to gather at Christmas. We renew our own important and crucial family bonds of love. This is truly human love. Because Jesus coming into the world took flesh in a family, he also took flesh in each of our families. The human love we share, therefore, is also divine love '€“ God'€™s love.

If for some reason we lack family or can'€™t be with family this year, Jesus reassures everyone, that we are always part of his family.

This Christmas let us ask for a deeper faith to see and meet Jesus more in our hearts, in our families and in our church where we are helped to experience what is most important, namely, belonging to God'€™s family.

I wish you and your families a very happy Christmas.

Bp Justin Bianchini