One advantage of the recent snowstorm may have been that we all have had to stay at home a bit more and forget about a certain amount of travel that we had planned. Perhaps you talked a bit more than usual to your family over those days. Maybe you discovered some things about your family that you didn’t know already, and if so, that is good.

I spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at home. It was delightful; I shared meals with my brother, his wife and family. We played cards, we talked, and we listened. When I left on Wednesday, the snow came lashing down. It was my brother who phoned me on the way out of concern to give advice and to make sure that I arrived safely.

The experience of those days caused me to cast my mind back and remember once again how much love I have received from my parents, God rest them, and from my family. It was there in the bosom of my family I learned to love and to be loved. It is in the bosom of every family that each one of us learns what love is and how to receive love and to give love.

Recently I attended the funeral of the mother of one of our priests. He talked about the struggle, which so many mothers had to make trying to put food on the table. Drying clothes in wet weather for a big family in the era before spin-driers was no joke. Christian mothers and fathers do all of that and much more all of the time. Today I want you to think for a moment of all that you owe in love to your family. Just recall for a while what you have received. Today I want to give thanks to God for the many outstanding families, the many outstanding parents and grandparents and children, people who do their utmost to give to their families all that is best in life. We thank God today for families, for their serene and sound faith in God as parents try to practice that faith and pass it on to their children. We thank God for parents, first of all because they are open to new life. They co-operated with God in giving us life.

The First Reading introduces us to two remarkable people, Hannah and her husband Elkanah. Hannah had a great hurt in her life. She was barren, she had no children. Her great rival, Penninah, who was the second wife of Elkanah, had children but Hannah had none. Every year they all used to go up to pray or to offer worship in the Temple of Yahweh at Shiloh. Penninah used to taunt Hannah to annoy her about the fact that she was childless. And so, Hannah wept and would not eat. Then in the bitterness of her soul she prayed for a child and she made a vow. The vow was this: that if God heard her prayer she would give the child to the Lord for the whole of his life.

Well Hannah’s prayer was heard. She gave birth to a son, Samuel, and as we heard in that reading, she kept her promise – she gave him to the Lord. In that entire story the faith of Hannah shines out. She believed that all life comes from God, she knows that human life is sacred because it is a gift from God. And so she recognises that she depends, totally, on the Creator.

That theme is continued in the Second Reading where St. John invites us all to reflect on the fact that we are all God’s children. That is a mighty privilege. Yes, whether we are Protestant or Catholic, Muslim or Jew, Buddhist or Hindu, we all have a common Father – God who is the source and origin of all life – God who is love. It can also be a blessing.

In his message for the World Day of Peace, which is tomorrow, Pope John Paul II, says “there is growing hope of greater peace in the world because of the fact that more and more people are becoming evermore conscious of the fact that a relationship with the One God, the common Father of all, cannot fail to bring about a greater sense of human brotherhood”. That is what the Holy Father believes will be essential in the search for peace.

In our earthly family we are often reminded of the love which God the Father has lavished upon us. The love which our earthly fathers and mothers show us, the gifts we get at Christmas, all of this remind us of the love which comes originally from God. God is love. All true love comes from God.

In the Offertory Procession today we will be emphasising the seeds of hope for the future. First and foremost among those seeds of hope I would place the Christian family. There we give thanks for the deep faith of so many Christian families in this parish. The Church wants you all, not only to keep that faith, but also to deepen it and to strengthen it and pass it on. We carry lighted candles to the altar often. They are symbols of a living faith, a faith that continues to shine out and give guidance and light for our lives. But that will only happen as long as there is prayer in the home. Family prayer is the oxygen of the life of faith.

The faith of adults will only survive the storms and hurricanes of our difficult times if it is an adult faith. The RENEW programme which has been going on in the parish over the past three years aims at educating us in our faith, especially to the Word of God. The life of the body can die through lack of food. In the same way our faith can die if it is not nourished by food, that is by prayer and study and reflection. And so, another seed of hope is the programme which will be put in place to continue, to follow on, from RENEW.
A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children form a family. The members of every family are persons who are equal in dignity. The fourth commandment says; ‘Honour your father and your mother’. It is God’s clear will that after Him we should honour our parents. To them we owe our life. They have handed on to us the knowledge of God.

One of the seeds of hope for the New Millennium that I would like to sow is support for Christian marriage. My hope is that people will prepare well and seriously for marriage. Many people spend a lot of time choosing and getting ready for their jobs, their career in life. But their marriage is more important. A good marriage is better than a good job. Of course they are not exclusive. Married couples need to give themselves the time and the space and the effort to enrich their marriage, to increase and improve their communication with each other as a basis for deepening their love.

You know that when Jesus chose to be a member of the holy family he was in fact choosing to share with all of us, the slow process of growing up and learning and maturing. Now we are all called to be God’s chosen ones, His family. So today I want you all to pray for all the families of the parish.
At this time of the year we make New Year resolutions but also New Year wishes. Seven is the perfect number, so I have seven wishes to put before you.

1. I hope that kindness will take root in all our lives during 2001. For if it does, our homes will become centres of peace and places of goodness.

2. I hope that parents will never forget the love, which gave life to their children. For if they do so they will always correct and advise their children patiently and wisely and be really thankful to God for their sons and daughters.

3. I hope that children and young people will realise clearly that they get gifts from their parents, which they can never lose – the gift of life, the gift of hope. As a result they can become really thankful people.

4. I wish all mothers and fathers the moral strength and Christian character, which they need to help their children grow in grace and true wisdom.

5. I would like to see those families that are separated by bitterness and hatred and pride, happily reunited in the love of Christ. Let us all make that a special intention this year.

6. My hope for children is that they will honour and obey their parents always. If they cheerfully help all their brothers and sisters, they can play their part in making their homes happy places.

7. Finally, I wish that those families, who lost a beloved one through death, will live in hope of being together one day in Heaven.