When Archbishop Malcolm wrote to us two weeks ago about the start of the Year of Mercy, there were two passages in his letter that really struck me. One was where he said how sad it is when we meet people who think that, because of something they’ve done, God has no time for them. The other was when he appealed to all of you who come to Mass: ‘Please tell the people who stay away – the ones priests often can’t reach – that this is their home; they will be welcomed back, without fuss, but with love.’
Christmas is a time when, as families, we try to get together with those we love and we really miss those who can’t or won’t be with us. Whatever has happened in the past, we just want to see them and be with them. It’s just the same for the family of the Church. This Year of Mercy is the Church’s way of saying that everyone is welcome, and Christmas is a great time for reunions, for coming home.
When Mary heard and accepted the angel’s message that she was going to be the one to bring God to birth in our world, she must have been overwhelmed both with joy and with the huge responsibility of that mission. Her first reaction was to go and visit her cousin Elizabeth, who had also been given an unexpected role in the mission: being the mother of John the Baptist, the one who was to prepare the way for the Saviour.
As the family of the Church, the Body of Christ in the world today, we have been given the mission of bringing Christ into our world again every day, and we need the help and encouragement of every member of the Church if we are going to make that happen. We need to greet and bless each other, to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we recognise the presence of God living and growing in each one of us, and to encourage each other to believe that the promises God has made will be fulfilled.
Please spend some time this week thinking about who might just be waiting for an invitation to come home to the family of the Church for Christmas, and let them know they will be welcomed back, without fuss, but with love.