Thursday 1 December 2016


I came across a painting the other day by Fray Juan Bautista Maino called The Adoration of the Shepherds and a detail shows one of the shepherds (though it might be St. Joseph) lifting the right hand of the baby Jesus and kissing it.

It strikes me that this is the purpose of our Advent and Christmas - to arrive at a point where Jesus is born for us again, born within us and we are called to come to Jesus and express our love for him in such a gesture.

John the Baptist goes into the desert for clarity and focus. The desert is a place of simplicity where we have nothing but the essentials to deal with and focus on. With this focus on the essentials John is able to recognise Jesus when he appears.

Yesterday I celebrated a Christmas Mass with a group of special needs adults from St. John Of God Carmona services, an experience whch brought me face to face with the essential meaning of life in all its simplicity.

When I arrived in the hall I went to greet each person - 30 or 40 in all -  and when I came to one woman, the man beside her said to me, "don't be surprised if she hits you." It's an involuntary movement. I gave her my hand anyway. She took it in hers and, without a word, she kissed my hand. It was for me a repeat of what the shepherd did with the hand of Jesus and in that moment Jesus was born for me again.

At the Our Father I invited people to hold the hand of or touch the person beside them. I put my arm around the shoulder of the man nearest to me. He was very very pleased. And while we were praying, a woman shuffled up from the back with her right hand stretched out to me, looking directly into my eyes with her own beautiful, silent eyes. I took her hand and then she reached up and kissed me and, without a word, returned to her place. Jesus was born for me again. 

It has occurred to me that I have aspired in these days to kiss the hand of Jesus but it seems now that he is saying to me in these two lovely women, "it is I who will  kiss you." Briefly, profoundly it is done!

In school I have been asking the children what Christmas means for them. Santa features quite strongly but what features most strongly for the children is family. Family coming home from abroad, family getting together and being happy together and that was a beautiful thing to listen to. It is an essential element of Christmas, it is where Christ is born again.

What saddened me is how little Jesus himself was mentioned and how so few children actually know how to pray, even to bless themselves. So, in this time of Advent a clear focus for all of us is that we should help the children to focus on Jesus, without taking away for all the other enjoyable aspects. "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be added as well."

We owe it to our children to teach them to pray as a way of connecting with God, to give them the valuable resource of learned prayers that they can turn to at any time through their lives. There have been times when I've been sick and without the energy to pray spontaneously and in such times it has been a blessing to turn to the prayers I have learned by heart throughout my life.

One simple prayer I asked each of the children to do is - before you go to sleep, take a minute to tell Jesus that you love Him, then pause and think of Jesus saying to you, saying your name, saying "I love you very very much." Then I put my hand on my chest and say, "feel that love and hold it inside you." One little lad laughed with surprise to think of Jesus saying that to him!

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