Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“ . . . You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). During the Christmas season and the days that follow many of us will visit the manger in our parish church. Looking at the infant, we see that He is not alone. Mary and Joseph are with Him.
God chose to become present to us by being born into an ordinary human family. When the eternal Son of God “became flesh,” He not only adopted a human body but also became familiar with the very ordinary challenges and struggles of family life. He truly became one of us. He humbled Himself, was born of Mary and entered the reality of family life with Mary and Joseph in Nazareth.
As I look at the infant in the manger with Mary and Joseph close by, I am reminded of the important role that the family plays in society and in the Church. Living in a family has the potential to make us more Christ-like. We look to Mary and Joseph, and their relationship with Jesus as a model of the mutual love, respect, and trust essential to the Christian family.
Speaking of the Holy Family Pope Francis reminds us, “The message that comes from the Holy Family is first of all a message of faith. In the family life of Mary and Joseph, God is truly at the center and He is so in the Person of Jesus. This is why the family of Nazareth is holy. Why? Because it is centered on Jesus” (Homily, Feast of the Holy Family, 2014).
In my recent pastoral letter I noted, “When members of the family allow God’s love and salvation in Christ to shape who they are and all that they do, then they become what Pope Francis calls, ‘missionary disciples.’ That is to say they become faithful followers of Christ . . .” who proclaim the joy of the Gospel (The Role of the Family in the Life of the Church of Syracuse and Beyond).
I encourage you to spend some quiet moments at the manger scene in your home or parish church. Embrace the infant in the manger; Mary, His mother; and Joseph, the faithful protector and guardian of the family. Ask them to enlighten, comfort, and guide every family so that they may fulfill their mission to know, live, and share their faith.
May Mary, who with Joseph created a home for God’s own Son, help all of us to hear the word of God and respond in faith, with humility and trust, as she did to God’s will for her.
A blessed Christmas to you and all whom you love. Be assured of my prayers for you during the Christmas season.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse