“As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Christmas, we are reminded that the Holy Family was forced to become refugees.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
St. Joseph is the patron of the Universal Church and the patron of Canada. He is the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. He is an excellent role model for men, for husbands, and for fathers. During the Christmas season we focus on the wonderful qualities of this man who loved God and his family.
Sacred Scripture tells us that Joseph was a good and righteous man. We see this in the way he dealt with Mary’s pregnancy. Joseph was engaged to Mary and when he discovered that she was with child, knowing that they had not had marital relations, decided to end the relationship quietly so that she would not be exposed to public disgrace. It was in a dream that God told Joseph, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 1:20) St. Joseph was a man of faith and wanted to do God’s will so he did take Mary as his wife. He then had to take Mary to Bethlehem because the Emperor Augustus had ordered that a census be taken and all were required to be registered in their home town. This journey with his pregnant wife would not have been easy; however, things become more difficult when they arrived in Bethlehem and found no lodgings. Mary went into labour and all Joseph could find was a simple manger. There he assisted his wife in giving birth to a son. The one who was instrumental in bringing into the world the Saviour of the world would now have to become his protector. God spoke to St. Joseph once again in a dream to warn him about the imminent danger to his family, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Mt. 2:13) The Holy Family fled with few belongings and found safety in a foreign land.
Today we still find violence and tyranny that forces innocent people to flee their homes and countries. We see this in the current refugee crisis that is facing Europe and other parts of the world. As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Christmas, we are reminded that the Holy Family was forced to become refugees. St. Joseph had to protect his family from danger by bringing them to a safe place where they could live in peace. This desire for peace is still very much alive today, especially among those who are oppressed. Peace is such a significant part of Christmas. The angels who appeared to the shepherds on the first Christmas proclaimed a message of peace on earth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours.” (Luke 2:14) In speaking about the Messiah, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Jesus is the Prince of Peace and the celebration of his birth is about peace. So it is most appropriate that at Christmas we think of those refugees who are seeking peace in our own country of Canada. In a world of so much bad news we find good news in the world’s response to the Syrian refugees. We see this in our country where so many people are opening their hearts to refugees and providing them a home. Currently in our own diocese there are thirteen parishes sponsoring Syrian refugees. There are also some families and individuals who are helping to sponsor refugees. The generosity and good will is incredible. I am also extremely grateful to those within our diocese who are facilitating the arrival of refugees. As we begin the Year of Mercy this is a beautiful example of putting our faith into action and extending love and mercy to those in misery. Like St. Joseph, we reach out to protect these families by offering them asylum and bringing them peace. These are actions that definitely complement the Christmas season and help to illustrate its true meaning.
This Christmas I ask that you pray in particular for all refugees. Through the intercession of the Holy Family may those fleeing tyranny find a generous world that offers them a new home where they will find true peace and joy. Let us also pray for the political will to address the tyranny that causes such misery.
St. Joseph, Patron of Canada, pray for us.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Gerard Bergie, D.D.
Bishop of St. Catharines