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Homily 30th Sunday Year A

Posted on 5th November, 2023

30th Sunday of Year A

SVP 29th October 223


Did you know that before he was elected pope, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, our Pope Francis, used to visit the people of the poorest areas of the city and would get there by bus or the metro. No fast car with police escort like his predecessors. They lived in a palace; he lived in a flat above the busy streets of the city. They had a staff of three or four nuns to care for them, cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry. He cooked and cared for himself. When he went to Rome, he stayed in a cheap pension house to save money for the archdiocese. When he was elected Pope, he returned there personally to pay his bill and thank his host. He phoned the newspaper vendor on the street just outside his apartment to cancel his daily paper.


He was known for his simple lifestyle. He frequented the poor and was their defender when they were I trouble. He identified with the poor. When he became Pope, he did not change. He continues a simple lifestyle, despite the temptations to accept a papal lifestyle in the huge and spacious rooms of the Vatican papal apartments. Pope Francis does not simply preach the gospel, he lives it.


St paul was of a similar disposition. When he wrote to the people of the church he founded in Thessalonica, he was so close to them all that he knew each one of them by name. If he stayed in a place for any length of time, he would work to earn his living. He was a tentmaker. He went from one country to another, each with its own language and culture, and ate whatever they gave him, slept wherever they put him. Like Pope Francis today, he did not simply preach the gospel, he lived it.


By the time he wrote this letter to the Church of Thessalonica, the community was growing rapidly and spreading out across the region. In today’s reading, he tells the disciples at Thessalonica: “You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become imitators of us, and of the Lord; and it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you.” Paul’s example of life in the Spirit is what brought them to Christ.


I think I have told you before about when I was in Burkina Faso. I was in a mission area where there were very few Christians; the people were mostly of Animist or Muslim faiths. Every year we would have up to 100 young adults come for baptism at Easter. We did not make it easy for them. They would have to attend catechism classes every week for 4 years. At the end of each year, they were assessed by the community on their knowledge of the faith, and, above all, if they were leaving behind the practices of their other faiths. Then, they could move on to the next stage in their progress to baptism. When their turn came, they would spend the whole of Holy Week at the mission, to have their final preparation and to experience all the ceremonies of Easter.


I guarantee that if you asked these catechumens why they were prepared to go through the pain of quarrelling with families because of the choice of baptism, why they wanted to change their ways to become Christian, invariably they would answer, “I’ve seen how the Christians love one another and love us. When there is a bereavement, the Christians are there to help, when there is famine, they treat everyone according to their needs, whether they are Christian or not. When they have opened a school, everyone can enter. That is why I want to be like them. They are good people.”


Not words, but the witness of the faith in action bring them to imitate the faith. Not coercion, or force, but love alone brings them to Jesus. It’s just as St Paul wrote: “It was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the Gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you. This has made you a great example to all believers”.


Christians have only one law to live by: love. Love will overcome indifference. Love will overcome hostility. Love will overcome hatred. Love will overcome anger. Love will overcome injustice.

It often takes a lot of courage to keep on loving, especially in the breakdown of our relationships. It takes courage to keep on believing in the power of love. Jesus knows this. This is why he told his disciples in the gospel of John: "I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have tribulations, but take courage, I have conquered the world." (Jn. 16:33).


This week, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, sent a letter to the people of his diocese. Remember that his diocese includes both the Jews of Jerusalem and the Christians and Arabs of the occupied West Bank and Gaza. It is a remarkable document; honest, and full of love and mercy. There are copies at the back of the church, but those of you who receive the newsletter by email don’t need to take the printed copy. In his letter, the Patriarch writes, “To have the courage of love and peace here, today, means not allowing hatred, revenge, anger and pain to occupy all the space of our hearts, of our speech, of our thinking. It means making a personal commitment to justice, being able to affirm and denounce the painful truth of injustice and evil that surrounds us, without letting it pollute our relationships. It means being committed, being convinced that it is still worthwhile to do all we can for peace, justice, equality and reconciliation. Our speech must not be about death and closed doors. On the contrary, our words must be creative, lifegiving, they must give perspective and open horizons”.


He could equally address these words to us, here today, and they would be relevant, don’t you think? Let us pray for the people of Palestine and also of Israel. May they too have the courage to come to forgive each other and to seek through love to live with each other in peace and mutual respect, in the image of Jesus.

Terry Madden 

Homily 19th Sunday Year A 13 August 2023

Posted on 13th August, 2023

Homily for 19th Sunday of Year A

SVP 13 august 2023


Last week, I had the privilege of blessing a couple's marriage They have been married 10 years in the eyes of the state, and she and her husband have been together for 15 or more years. They have two children, one of whom is now at secondary school. (We could say there is nothing unusual about their situation.)


The parish priest invited me to officiate at the marriage, as they are family, and he agreed with me that we were not blessing the beginning of a new marriage but giving thanks that they now want to bring a new element into their marriage, God. How could we ignore the truth of the matter, that have two lovely children, that they are lovely because their parents love them and care for them?  And how can we ignore that they are married in the eyes of the larger community in which they live? What we did on Saturday was bring this marriage to the heart of the Catholic Community and ask God to bless it. The woman and her husband made their marriage vows, as they did before the registrar 10 years ago, but this time they were entrusting their lives as a couple to God and dedicating their marriage and their children to God in a way they did not before.


This is surely a sign of a growth in their faith, a huge step forward and a new inclusion of God in their lives. They are making space for God in their couple and in their family. I was so happy to be part of this conversion. It is never too late for any couple to turn to God and allow God into their lives.


While we were celebrating this renewal in the north of Scotland, Pope Francis was in Portugal, at the Word Youth Day celebrations, inviting the young people to renew their faith and their commitment to the Lord. No doubt, you heard that there were 1 ½ million young people at Mass with the Pope on Sunday. Pope Francis made many pertinent observations to the young people gathered there. But one of the most important, it seems to me, was his statement that the Church is a welcoming Church; not a fortress church holding back the dangers of secularism, but an open Church, open to everyone, just as Christ welcomed everyone who came to him.


"The Lord does not point a finger, but opens wide his arms: Jesus showed us this on the cross," Francis declared. "He does not close the door, but invites us to enter; he does not keep us at a distance, but welcomes us."


This is the message of Jesus Christ: “Come to me all you who are over-burdened and I will give you rest”. Take heart”, he says in today’s gospel. “Take heart, do not be afraid”.


When we speak of being a welcoming church, we are saying that all are welcome, no one is excluded. For the church is not a church of the perfect but of the sinners, of those who recognise their need of forgiveness and mercy. Jesus Christ is that forgiveness and that mercy, which only God can give. We need Jesus if we wish to live a wholesome and joyful life.


"There is room for everyone in the church and, whenever there is not, then, please, we must make room, including for those who make mistakes, who fall or struggle," Pope Francis told the young people. Then, later, on the plane back to Rome, he insisted that everyone has a place in the church, without discrimination or exception: "The Lord is clear," "The sick, the elderly, the young, old, ugly, beautiful, good and bad."  Everyone: “Todos, todos, todos”, he said three times to the reporters on the plane.

“Come as you are”, says Jesus. “Come to my banquet”. I do not wait for you to repent, I do not wait for you to change, when you come there will be time for that. Come to me.


So, this is how we want it to be in our community of disciples. If the Lord accepts each of us as we are and loves us as we are, surely, we too can do the same with each other. No pointing of fingers. If the Lord opens his arms to me, surely, I can open my arms to the other, no matter how different they me be to me. We are all one in the One Lord.


Let us remember, when Elijah reached Horeb, the Mountain of God, in search of God. He did not find God in the noise of activity, nor in the power of an earthquake, or the speed of a flash of lightning. He found God in the quietness of a gentle breeze, that barely ruffled the hair of his head. If we take the time we need each day to be quiet in the Lord, quietly reading his Word or silently sitting in peace, emptying our mind of thoughts, we too will discover God. We will discover God, not only in that quiet moment of prayer, but in every encounter with another person. For the relationship we open to in prayer, will repeat itself in every encounter with another, whoever they may be. We will be open to the Spirit of God living in them. And we will welcome her with open hearts.


Corpus Christi Homily

Posted on 12th June, 2023

Corpus Christi 2023


Death, the bewilderment that comes with it, the sufferings and confusion that can often surround it, are prominent in the news these days.


Life is fragile. Its even more fragile for the victims of the war-induced flooding in the Ukraine, as it is for the survivors who now only have scarce access, if any, to drinking water and even to food. What about the innocent victims of the jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso, their bodies left to rot in the heat? Or the 280 dead in the train crash in India?


If I keep this up, we will all end up weeping and that’s not what I seek. I want rather to contrast today’s public, depressing discourse with that of Jesus.  


In today’s gospel account, Jesus, who is really fragile and vulnerable to an early and violent death, talks with vigour about life. He is already aware that he is going to be murdered in a most violent and painful way, yet he lives in hope and in joy. He is not morose and depressed; his discourse is vibrant and optimist. “I am the living bread”, he says, “anyone who eats this bread will live, for ever. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him”. “I draw life from the Father and whoever eats me will draw life from me.”


There is an enticing vitality in what he says. His words give hope and joy. Jesus’s discourse is not about agony and death; it is about hope and joy and fullness of life.


The people who escaped from slavery in Egypt got stuck in the desert. They began to live in fear. They began grumbling against Moses and God, about their hunger and confusion. God used the nature around them to give them food, manna, as though a gift from heaven. This sustained their lives and they grew again in hope. God renewed their hope and with it their life. God demonstrated and proved just how close he was to them: even in their suffering and uncertainty God was with them, shepherding them on the way to the Promised Land.


When Jesus returned to his Father when his time had come, he did not abandon us but gave us his Bread of Life. He left this bread, which is indeed his body and blood, so that we may have life and have it in abundance. By the bread and wine which we share with each other, Jesus shares his life with us. He gives us joy and hope. He encourages us. He helps us rise above the ups and downs of life and remain united with God.


This coming together and sharing are two most important aspects of the Eucharist. A conversation I had recently with some children who made their first Communion not long ago comes to mind. I asked them what was the most important thing they remember about that day? One of them cheerfully replied that what was important for him was being there together with his friends and getting their photo taken together.


I almost said to him, “yes, but that is not so important”. I would have been wrong. The child had seized the truth of our Eucharist. It is Jesus who calls us – to come together – to be with other members of the community of his baptised – to hear his Word and to receive his body and blood in Communion. This togetherness is most important, for the Eucharist is for the Community, the community of disciples. By the Eucharist, Jesus builds up his community, the Church, and we – the Church – we come together to care for each other and to serve each other and to go out into the world to witness to God’s love and to the joy and hope that we experience when we are together with God.


In coming together, we give space to God to be with us. For Jesus said: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.”.


The child was right. He wanted a photo to remember their special occasion. We adults don’t need a photo, for we have the bread and wine, which are the body and blood of he who calls us together in friendship and love.



Pentecost 2023


The Gospel passage for this Feast of Pentecost is short, but it is rich in content and worth meditating on. Let us imagine the scene. The disciples are gathered in the upper room. They must have been sad, depressed, because their Master had been put to death. The doors were locked. They were afraid, closed in on themselves. But suddenly Jesus comes among them and he greets them saying “Peace, Shalom”. This is more than just “Good evening” or “Hi everyone”. Shalom means well-being, harmony with God and harmony amongst themselves.


The disciples see that Jesus is not dead, but fully alive, and they are filled with joy. They are perhaps, even probably, beside themselves with joy, so Jesus says to them again “Peace” as if he were saying “Calm down, friends, because I have something important to tell you.”


He goes on: “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” These followers of his who had abandoned him in his darkest hour, when he had been arrested, put on trial – a mock trial we could say – and made to suffer an atrocious death by crucifixion, are being sent to preach the good news of his Death and Resurrection for the salvation of the world. “As the Father sent me” - God the Father so loved the world that he sent his Son to bring us life in all its fullness – “so am I sending you”. “What us?” we could imagine the disciples saying, “We who are so weak?” 


But Jesus shows them that they will not be alone. He breathes on them and imparts to them the Holy Spirit. If I had been among the disciples, I might have protested at this breathing on me, but the breathing is important: when God created the first human being, after fashioning a form out of the dust of the earth, something very weak, he breathed into it, giving it life. Here Jesus is giving ‘new life’ to the weak disciples.


The disciples will receive the Holy Spirit again on the Day of Pentecost. And we have heard in the First Reading how powerful the impact of this Spirit is. The disciples remain no longer behind closed doors but go out into the streets of Jerusalem to bear witness to what God has done in Jesus Christ. And we see that their message is received.


“As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” We can apply these words of Jesus to ourselves: we have all received a mission, each one of us. And each one of us could ask the question: “What me? I am so weak, how could I be given a mission?” How are we going to fulfil this mission? Perhaps we do not know. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us discover what we should be doing with our lives.  Those of us who have received the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation have already received the Holy Spirit, but we can always receive the Spirit more fully. Let us remember the example of our Mother Mary. At the Annunciation the angel greeted her: “Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you” This means that she was filled by the Spirit of God, but the angel went on to say: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you… and so the child [that you are to bear] will be holy and will be called Son of God.”


 We can ask the Spirit to share with us the gifts that have been promised. As we have heard in the Second Reading: “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord.” Jesus wished his disciples to be in Peace, and peace and harmony should characterize the Church, and each community of the Church. We are all walking and working together.


This is why on this Day of Pentecost we should be praying that all Christians may be one, one in their faith, hope and love, one in their mission. This is why on this day, this afternoon, there will be a walk of unity from the Anglican cathedral to the Metropolitan cathedral. All are welcome.


May we be attentive to the Holy Spirit, and so become ever more faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ. Amen.




Feast of Our Lady of Africa

(Sunday 30 April)


This is an important feast for our Society of Missionaries of Africa.

It is also the patronal feast of our Sister Congregation,

the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (MSOLA)


The statue of Our Lady of Africa is in the Basilica in Algiers where we were founded.

On the wall of the apse there is the following inscription:

Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for the Muslims


Would you like to prepare for this feast by reciting the following prayer?


Our Lady of Africa, Mary Virgin, Mother of

Jesus, chosen and blessed among all women

You are holy and spotless.

Your motherly heart is full of love and mercy.

Teach us to know God, to love, and serve him.

Help us to do good and to avoid evil,

To work for peace in truth, justice, freedom and love.

Help those who live in difficulty, suffer or are in danger.

Protect our country, sustain its workers.

Make our youth happy,

Unite our families.

Look with kindness on all the people of Africa.

Our Mother and protector,

Present our prayer to God Almighty.

(Here, we can express the grace we need).

May Africa sing your praises, O Mary,

And may this continent live in peace.






Our Lady of Africa 30 April

Posted on 22nd April, 2023

Homily for 2nd Sunday of Lent

Posted on 8th March, 2023

2nd Sunday Lent

4th March 2023

We are already at the 2nd Sunday of Lent. We are what - at our 12th day of Lent. If we were on holiday somewhere, on a 2-week holiday, we would be packing up our bags to go home. But we are still at the beginning of Lent.

I wonder, though, if you are a bit like me and fail to take this opportunity of Lent seriously. When I look at our friends of the Muslim Faith, I admire them. For them, what to do in Lent – or Ramadan as they call it – is very clear. They have a set programme and they come together in faith to help each other practise it. They do more than just fast, even if they do fast in a spectacular way. Their Ramadan is also serious prayer, it is also alms giving, it is also sharing what they have with others who have nothing. It is also turning back to God. What is important for them is to do it all together, in the Muslim community. This strong community aspect of Ramadan is their strength.

Lent for us is like a journey; a journey in which we accompany Jesus on his way up to Jerusalem where he will be arrested, judged, condemned, left to hang naked on the cross, before all the multitude, in terrible, excruciating pain, and with the loneliness eating into his heart. And, where he will rise again before returning to his Father in heaven.

In today’s readings, we have mention of 2 journeys; that of Abraham, as he leaves his homeland in search of God and the promised land, and that of Jesus as he goes up to Jerusalem. The journey of Abraham is begun at the behest of God who calls him to set off for an unknown land and an unknown destiny. His only assurance is the Word of God and the promise that God will be with him always. If he completes his journey, God promises him, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” His reward, we might say, is similar to our great reward of the Kingdom of God.

The second journey is that of Jesus towards Jerusalem, which, as we read in the Gospel, he broke off for a moment to journey up a mountain where he came face to face with God. Mountains, in the bible are often places of theophany, of a meeting with God. Jesus, knowing where his journey was taking him, needed the reassurance of his Father that this journey to his suffering and death was truly the way. However, he also needed to reassure his Apostles too, those who were to be witnesses of what would happen in Jerusalem, that this was the way of God.

We know that both journeys were fraught with dangers and risks, with trials and failures. And yet, it is these journeys of Abraham and of Jesus that have led us to our own journeys of faith, those which we have been travelling and will continue to travel for the rest of our lives.

We travel this journey with companions, we are not alone. This is why we gather in the community that is the church. Often, we refer to the church with the title, “The Pilgrim People of God”; the People who are on God’s journey. Christ’s pilgrimage led him to Jerusalem. Our pilgrimage leads us to the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God, where the will of God reigns. Don’t we say each time we pray the Lord’s prayer, “They Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. When the lord’s will is done in all things then we are in the Kingdom of God.

For now, we are on a journey towards that Kingdom and as we journey through this particular part of the journey, that is Lent, we take stock to check that we are on the right road, to check that we are still walking with Jesus on his journey and that we have not diverged.

We are like, in some way, the poet, Robert Frost, who came upon a fork in the road he was walking. Each day, especially in Lent, we have to make a choice of which road we will follow. If we take the right road, we know that we are on the road to happiness in God.

First Sunday of Lent (A)

(25-26 February 2023)


“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

The temptations of Jesus come immediately after his baptism in the Jordan at the hands of John the Baptist. What a contrast! At his baptism Jesus was among the crowd; by immersing himself in the waters of the Jordan he was immersing himself into sinful humanity as a whole. As St Paul has told us in the Second Reading: Jesus is the new Adam who has come to renew humanity. But here, in the desert, Jesus is alone, in complete solitude. At the moment of his baptism Jesus had an experience of his intimate union with the Father, his Father who confirmed his mission of salvation. We can imagine Jesus, on fire, as it were, after this experience, ready and eager to begin proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and yet he is led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The time for active preaching has not yet come, and perhaps he does not feel any more this intimate communion with his Father. He is to be tempted by the devil. This is somewhat mysterious; but since the Spirit leads him to this, it cannot be bad; we can understand it as a sort of preparation for his mission. Whatever the reason for the temptations, we should not think that the time spent in the desert was easy for Jesus.


Matthew adds: “He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry”.

“Forty days and forty nights” is just a biblical way of saying “for a long period of time”.

The mention of hunger is important as it proves that Jesus was truly human. He must have found the fasting trying.


The first temptation – to turn stones into bread - is to use power and rank for one’s own benefit. This is a very frequent temptation, and unfortunately we see many people, eager to climb up the social scale, giving way to it. It is a temptation against which Pope Francis continuously warns all those who are called to serve in the Church. Jesus does not give in to this temptation. It does not correspond to his spirit and is not at all his way of acting. He replies to Satan: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”.  It is with humble reliance on his Father that Jesus refuses this temptation.


The second temptation is that of seeking notoriety. “Throw yourself down” so that God can save you. Celebrities use also sorts of tricks to make a name for themselves and to remain in the limelight. Jesus acts very differently. He is not looking for glory. He evades publicity. When the crowd whom he had nourished by multiplying bread wanted to proclaim him king, he withdrew to the mountain by himself (Jn 6:15). To those whom he cured, he often said “Do not tell anyone”. He did not work miracles in order to increase his fame. They were expressions of his love, of his compassion for those who were suffering.

The third temptation is the desire for power, the wish to dominate just for the pleasure of dominating, and to use all means, whether legitimate or not, to retain power. This we also see in our world today, unfortunately. Jesus, by way of contrast, does not dominate, he is never overpowering. He calls people to follow him, he invites, he encourages. He is the Master, but he takes on the role of a servant, washing the feet of his disciples. He is the Good Shepherd who gives his life for his sheep. He is the image of the invisible God, the God who is ready to sacrifice his only Son for our salvation. It is this God, his Father, that Jesus recognizes, and Him alone.


What lessons can we draw from this meditation on the way Jesus responded to temptations? Perhaps the first thing is not to be afraid when we experience temptations, when we meet with difficulties. At such times we should not panic, rather we should remain steadfast, firm in our faith in God who loves us. There is no need to be upset when temptations come. We should simply keep our eyes on Jesus. At the same time we should nourish ourselves on the Word of God which will become for us, as it was for Jesus, our light and our guide.


Jesus felt hungry, but he refused to turn stones into bread. We have the advantage of being able to eat the Bread of Heaven, to nourish ourselves on the Body and Blood of Jesus Himself. May this Eucharist be for us a source of strength so that we may live this Lenten period fully, faithfully and joyfully, not for our own satisfaction, but solely for the glory of God. Amen.


Fr. Ferdinand's Homily 19 February 2023

Posted on 19th February, 2023

Homily Sunday 7-A



In today’s Gospel Jesus continues his long sermon on the mount. He is giving his disciples a new Law; he is teaching us a new way of living.


In today’s section of his sermon, Jesus speaks about ‘revenge’ and about ‘mutual love’.

On taking revenge, the law of Moses in the book of Exodus teaches: ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth’. This law was introduced to put limits to revenge and make it proportional to the offence.

However, in today’s gospel Jesus says: But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance.  For Jesus, vengeance should be excluded altogether. Vengeance leads to a ‘tit for tat’ mentality on a small scale and on a big scale. The vicious circle of retaliation needs to be broken, and that can only be done by opposing vengeance altogether. Martin Luther King once said: ‘An eye for an eye and the whole world would go blind’.


Jesus does not stop us from defending ourselves in situations of unjust aggression and even less of opposing evil in the world. But Jesus wants to exclude vengeance. How do we educate our children and ourselves? What do we teach? When they hit you, hit back!  Or, when they hit you, walk away!

After that, Jesus continues his teaching saying: I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Love your enemies. How is this possible humanly speaking for us, weak as we are?

On ourselves, it is not possible. We need to draw close to Jesus, for him to infect us ‘positively’. When we reflect on his words and his life, when we draw close to him in prayer and the Eucharist, he can infect us ‘positively’, in order to become whole and healthy, more like him.


Sometimes we hear people greeting each other, saying How are you? And they answer, I am good.

I know that grammatically it is not correct, to say I am good, but it also reminds us of the words of Jesus who tells us: ‘No one is good but God alone’. God alone is good, God causes his sun to rise on bad people as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest people alike.

Jesus calls us to resemble our heavenly Father more and more, to be truly his children, and for that to ask for his help.


So, the next time, when someone will ask us: How are you? We’d better answer: I am trying to be good.

Homily for Christmas Day 

I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. This is the message of the angel to the shepherds. And it is the message of the angel to us this evening: I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.

We need messages of this kind, joyful messages, because there is enough distress in the world. The day before yesterday evening watching the news there were two news items that struck me. One was about a Ukrainian soldier, already for a year at the front, and now facing a winter with freezing temperatures. The other was about a Palestinian family harassed by Jewish settlers, forcing them to leave their house and land. There is distress in our own country as well. Many families who do not have enough money to heat their house and are dependent on foodbanks.

This evening, while we have these situations in mind, we are welcomed with news of great joy.

What is this news? Today, in the town of David a saviour has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord.

The prophets of the Old Testament had been speaking about the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, like the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading. Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah spoke about the coming of a king with many qualities: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Someone who will embody all the values and virtues of the great people of the past.

The angel, in his message to the shepherds, is telling them: look, all the promises of the past have been fulfilled today, in the birth of this child. It is no longer a matter of future expectation; St Paul writes to Titus: God’s grace has come into the world!

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you. A Saviour has been born to us. If we look at our daily lives, and if we look at the world around us, we soon recognize that we are in need of a Saviour; who will save us from darkness, from sin, from hatred, from discouragement, from busy-ness (the idea that we always must be busy). A saviour who will save us from not being loved and loneliness, from making ourselves bigger than we really are, and as St Paul writes to Titus, from worldly ambition, and from all that does not lead to God.

And after having given the news, the angel continues: And here is a sign for you, you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

The child is lying in a manger. A manger, it sounds lovely, because we connect it with Christmas. We forget that a manger is a trough, a rack for fodder for cattle. The baby was put in a trough, because there was no other place.

Our saviour and his family have not been spared of the difficulties of life. Can you imagine what it means for a nine-month pregnant woman to travel on a donkey for two to three days? And to give birth to your child in an overcrowded situation with no proper facilities?

These events tell us that Jesus and his family are not ‘posh’, they have experienced that life can be hard and difficult.

And therefore, Jesus can be easily approached by any person, he is never too ‘high’ or too ‘big’ for any one of us.

So let us join the shepherds and visit the child in the manger. Let us draw near to our saviour.

During the pandemic we were told to distance ourselves from others in order not to risk being infected with the Covid virus.

With the child in the manger, the opposite is true, we must not distance ourselves from him, but draw very close to him, so that he can be our saviour and infect us positively, with joy and peace and courage to work for a better world.

So, this night, we rejoice with the angels and the shepherds, and all people of good will, because today a Saviour has been born to us, he is Christ the Lord.