I am involved in producing a resource for families called Seeds of Faith. You can find it on www.godfaithandfamilylife.wordpress.com The theme we have been looking at this month is baptism. Baptism is never a private matter because in Baptism we become part of a faith community and that brings challenges and responsibilities with it. If our faith is alive and active then that will shape the type of people we are, the choices we make and the relationships we build. The reality is that our families, communities and society itself can be shaped in a very positive way when we allow our faith to shine through.
I have found myself thinking a lot about that over these past weeks when I see the images of refugees and migrants risking their lives to get to a place of safety. I think of my own family and what I would be prepared to do to protect them. Just last weekend our second daughter started university. I am delighted that she is moving out into an exciting world but part of me just wants to mammy her, to be there to make sure she is not lonely, that she is safe and happy.
If I feel so protective when my children have the blessing of living in Ireland, how much more would I feel if my children were in Syria or Iraq?
I know there are concerns about the capacity of countries to take in refugees and offer them a safe place to call home – but I find myself wondering what Jesus would have done.
In the gospel for Sunday, October 4 Jesus is teaching – important issues about marriage are being discussed, Jesus’ words are challenging and probably provoking debate. In the midst of this serious conversation there are people bringing little children to be touched and blessed by Jesus.
The reaction of the disciples is to shoo the children out of the way – they are a distraction, a disruption, an invasion. Jesus however is very clear: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Gentleness, hospitality, making the little ones welcome – this is the way of Jesus.
Our faith challenges us to act as Jesus would. This Sunday’s Gospel warns us not to be an obstacle to God’s work. As baptised Christians how could we look at what is happening in the Mediterranean and disconnect ourselves from the situation? As we heard recently from the letter of St James: “If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it then it is quite dead.”
Opening our homes to Syrian families is not a sustainable solution for anyone. Just think, when visitors come to stay for a week they are wonderful, for two weeks they are fine but by three weeks we are all ready to head for the hills!
The families who come to Ireland need to be properly housed, given their own space and independence. Perhaps we could have a conversation in our families as to how we can offer a warm and vibrant welcome.
What are the practical things we can do? Have we resources we can share – money, furnishings, food and toiletries? Have our children toys they would give to children coming here with nothing? How will we welcome our new neighbours in our communities and school playgrounds? How will we be Christ for others?