Jim Cogley: Reflections (Based on Christmas Homily) Tues 26 Dec-Mon 1 Jan

Greetings to you all and hope you had a lovely Christmas. In response to some emails requests received for a copy of the Christmas Homily I have edited it slightly in order to make it suitable for these daily reflections. My website address is jimcogley.com if you wish to order books on line and you are welcome to make contact by email on frjimcogley@gmail.com Blessings, Jim C

Tues 26th Dec

The Christmas spirit is something we all love, smiling faces, people hug each other, and everybody is so much friendlier. One little girl was asked why she liked Christmas so much? She replied, ‘Because it’s that time of year when my family are much nicer to each other than they usually are’! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could put some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open one every month or even every week. This year we are very conscious of what is happening in and around Bethlehem the historical birthplace of Jesus. It’s very hard to fathom how a race that seventy years ago were victims of the Holocaust can now perpetuate the same atrocities on their Palestinian neighbours. In some churches the infant child is not being placed in a manger, but among pieces of rubble, symbolizing the horror of the war that is taking place there. The history of civilization is really the history of war. Is it not most significant that the only time in recorded history where no war was being fought somewhere on the face of the earth was the time when the Prince of Peace choose to be born.

Wed 27th Dec – God coming down to earth

There’s something about Christmas that makes us think of presents whether we be on the giving or receiving end. Whenever we see a nice big parcel wrapped up nicely we get excited at wondering whatever might be in it. Well Santy came to me this year and brought what looks like a nice big present……. And I have asked two children to give me a hand to see what’s inside. So, kids let’s open up the box and see what Santy has brought? As we look at the red heart-shaped balloon floating up into the air I wonder if Santy wants to tell us something that might be far more important than any expensive presents. I wonder could he be telling us not to look for God up there, in the heavens, and beyond our reach, that Christmas is about God down here… (Balloon is brought down to heart level). It’s about Love coming down to earth, being born in a stable and wanting us to feel his closeness in our hearts. Christmas is about God becoming very near to us and wanting us to know how much he loves us. To the extent that I know this God in my own heart I will recognize Him in you and what a difference that makes in how we relate.

Thurs 28th Dec – A time to make Peace

There’s something about Christmas that turns our minds to thoughts of peace. Many choose this time of year to make peace with friends and neighbours where there have been differences and misunderstandings. It’s a way of honoring the Christmas spirit by letting go of useless baggage. If the eternal God can reach down to us, can we not hear his message to reach out to one another? It’s not that big of an ask, but unfortunately some prefer to turn a deaf ear and hold onto what we will one day see as utter nonsense and a waste of life. It’s such a tragedy to see someone coming to the end of life and realizing they have allowed bitterness and resentment to define them and eat up so many of their precious years. We see so many governments in our world who prefer conflict to peace and we wonder why? But are we any different. It’s always easier to find energy for conflict rather than peace. Are we not all called to be peacemakers?

Fri 29th Dec – What money can’t buy

There’s something about Christmas that makes us put meaning before value. A dad, one Christmas morning, was delighted to be given a lovely box, wrapped with fancy paper and tied with a ribbon from his six-year-old daughter. He opened it and his jaw dropped with disappointment to find that it was just an empty box. Seeing how upset he was the little girl gave him a big hug and said, ‘Dad, you don’t understand, You see, its full of kisses. I blew in a kiss for every day of the year so each day you can take out one that’s just from me.” Needless to say, his eyes moistened as he realized she had given him a present more precious than any money could ever buy.

Sat 30th Dec – Our Divine DNA

There’s something about Christmas that invites us to remember who we really are. A little boy was taking part in a nativity play and his job was to place the infant Jesus in the crib and then stretch out his arms and say, ‘Behold the Lamb of God’. Just at that crucial moment, nervousness got the better of him and his mind went blank. He was speechless for a moment and then thought what might his mum say if she was being introduced to a new baby. So he stretched out his arms and said ‘Well now isn’t he the very spit of his da.’ That’s who we really are; that is our essence. One day all the rest will be stripped away. What we have, all that we do, who we are in relation to others, all will be gone and just our essence will remain and then we will be so surprised by our own magnificence that it will overwhelm us. In fact, we will wonder why did we always look outside ourselves for the happiness that we sought, and never thought of looking within, where the treasure lay hidden all along.

Sun 31st Dec – The Holy Family

In the Mediterranean just west of Italy there’s a small French controlled island that’s best known as the birthplace of Napoleon. As you probably know it’s Corsica with just about 300,000 inhabitants. About two thirds of the beautiful Island is covered by mountains and it’s quite a popular tourist destination. Some years ago, I had the opportunity to call there while being chaplain on a ship for just a day. It was one of those places that I would love to return to sometime should the chance ever arise. The reason that I want to mention it today is in relation to family and how some of the customs that are still practiced on that Island especially by the more native population have so much to teach us.

The first thing that impressed me was that there are no nursing homes on the entire island or at least not when I was there. The belief is that everyone is responsible for each other and when someone is incapable of looking after him or herself it’s the community that row in to help and take their turn at doing whatever is necessary for the one needing help. That fact spoke to me of the strong community bonds that have to exist in order for that to happen. These were the kind of bonds that we once had in our communities and are losing very quickly as people become self-sufficient and live more isolated lives. To find a balance between being security conscious and locking out ones neighbours can be quite difficult and many through fear slip into the trap of isolation. I have nothing against nursing homes and while I tried to look after my own mother as long as I could with the help of some neighbours there came a stage where she wanted to go into one herself and there spent the last months of her life where she was very happy and contented.

The population on that island of Corsica is composed mostly of Catholics and Greek Orthodox. These were the two sides that split in the Great Schism at the end of the first millennium, with one loyal to the Pope and the other to the Patriarch of Constantinople. What is interesting is that the two churches are built facing each other and it’s the one priest that looks after both communities. What a wonderful witness that is to religious tolerance and respect for difference. So often in our society we see people who are different as a threat and think that everyone should think and behave like us. One of the signs of maturity is where we accept that in a family children may turn out to be very different to their parents and may chose a lifestyle that is not what they were reared with and this too has to be respected. To live and let live is a pretty good motto to work with rather than trying to interfere.

Then there’s a custom on the Island that makes so much sense. It is where once a day every member of the family is obliged to sit down together for a meal. The purpose is not just to eat but for communication. Televisions, radios and mobile phones are turned off and even texting is forbidden. All of this is for the bonds within the family to be strengthened and where nothing is left unsaid that needs to be said. Every member gets a chance to speak and is encouraged to say whatever might be on his or her mind so that nothing gets left unspoken between them. If someone has an issue with another then it’s brought out into the open and thrashed out often with the wisdom of the elders often making a difference. The result is that among the settled community on the Island there seems to be a wonderful sense of family loyalty and great respect of one generation for the other. They even claim that the reason why they live so long and have very little sickness is directly related to their good communication as a family unit.

From that practice alone we have so much to learn here in our own culture because if we were to outline what is happening in so many homes here it would be very different:

In so many houses during mealtimes the TV is never turned off, it’s always there as a background distraction and catching someone’s attention even if it’s only for the adds. Then if the use of mobile phones is allowed during mealtimes the result is that nobody is really present to each other and the social aspect of the meal is being completely lost.

Where there’s so much busyness with someone always rushing for something there’s very little time for listening and without good listening people don’t really get to know each other. Then important things get left unsaid and often smouldering resentments are beginning to build up. In other cases, there’s an elephant in the living room, something really important that no one has the courage to address. The result is that members begin to skirt around the issue and engage in pleasantries. The art of conversation then gives way to non-versation with the small talk progressively getting even smaller. It’s the things that are not being spoken about that create invisible barriers that block communication whereas with things out in the open everybody knows where they stand and can get on with their lives.

Then there’s the ever-greater tendency to eat on the hoof, to not sit down together but to grab a plate of food and go into another room and continue doing what one was doing earlier. The unconscious message is that the computer or TV is more important than other family members. Vast numbers of families no longer ever eat together and is it any wonder then why there is such breakdown of family life. The word companion means to break bread and where there is no breaking of bread there can be no companionship.

On this Feast of the Holy Family could I invite you to take some time to reflect on your family dynamic especially around mealtimes.

It’s the one time when members can be together but are they really together?

It’s the time for things to be spoken and issues addressed, but are they?

It’s the time to be. Why do we make the time for doing and going so much more important?

It’s the time when children learn the art of conversation. Do they have the chance?

It’s the time for listening. Is the goggle box in the corner really more important?

Living a long life, being healthy and happy and having good relationships are all the things we would want for our lives. It’s very likely that the starting point for all of them is around the kitchen table while remembering that the TV and the mobile phones do have an off button.

Mon 1st Jan ’24 – Our Divine Potential

Christmas has been described as the birth of possibilities. There’s something about Christmas and a New Year that makes us consider our potential and the possibilities life places before us. It’s easy to count the number of pips in an apple but only God can count the number of apples in a pip. That’s what we mean by potential. Every child born into the world is a bundle of divine possibilities but for that potential to develop they need to be given a lot of positive faith experiences. So many today never get that. There are countless children who are being raised as spiritual orphans, there is no room at the inn that is their home for Christ, nor is he ever mentioned, Please do not do that to yours. There is a God-sized hole in each of their little hearts and if faith doesn’t fill it then something else will. When they get older there will come a time when life will let them down. Just make sure they have something to fall back on. Why not begin this New Year on the right note by inviting Christ into your own heart and then trust him as our New Year unfolds.

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