The Friday Thought - The special gift of family and friends

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For six months I had people poisoned with talk of the dog at home; for the next six months I’ll have everyone tortured through stories concerning my nephew.

For years I used to listen in amusement as people talked about their infant son, daughter or grandchild as if it was the only infant in the world, the poor baby was cared for with so much cotton wool often the term golden child became a label for such children.

Four weeks into being an uncle I can now understand why, there is something about young infants which highlight the great dignity and the uniqueness of life. Being so young and helpless you’re confronted by the simple reality of how dependent and vulnerable children are.

They require so much care and nurturing. At the moment the novelty hasn’t worn off, although my father learnt to his cost when nursing a young baby make sure he’s wearing a nappy or else the child isn’t the only one who requires a change of clothes!

Every time the baby coughs, cries, murmurs or stirs there are about four people waiting to jump and come to his aid looking for any excuse to hold him in their arms. I’m not sure if the baby has the same response team waiting on him when he wakens for his feed at three o’clock in the morning!

The birth of a child has altered a lot of our relationships at home. All of a sudden as a family we have a new set of parents, grandparents and uncles.

This has resulted in a few unexpected knock-on effects when I have been out and about recently, particularly in the hospital. On one occasion as I was passing the lifts in Altnagelvin a nurse stopped me and asked had ‘the wain’ been born yet.

I couldn’t understand why I was getting some funny looks from people waiting on the lifts until I realised I standing wearing a collar whilst talking to a nurse about the birth of a child.

A few weeks later this paled into insignificance when an elderly woman greeted me by saying: “I hear you’re a granda”.

At the heart of all our lives are the gift of family and friends. We cannot live truly human lives in isolation; we were all made to be in relationship.

From the families we grew up in, to the friends we have met and encountered on the road of life we have found ourselves engaged in relationships of one kind or another.

Our identity

Our identity as individuals, our identity as people is connected to the web of family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and classmates.

Every man and women has at various times been introduced as someone’s son or daughter, sister or brother, cousin or friend.

This highlights a very fundamental truth; we rely on those with whom we share our lives to experience love, joy, companionship, words of comfort, gestures which built us up, receiving reassurance which gives us peace of mind.

All these experiences we receive as gifts from one another. As we look at our lives and reflect on our words and actions do we help or hinder the building of relationships and community.

Often we feel threatened by others and their achievements. So much harm and hurt has been caused by the seeds of jealously and suspicion. One of the great temptations we face in our daily lives is to indulge in the gossip which tears down and destroys people.

In a society where everything is measured by success and achievement the danger exists of seeing ourselves in constant completion with those around us. Nothing has done more to destroy our sense of community and common identity. In a world driven by the need to stay ahead the welfare of all is sacrificed for the success and achievements of a few.

The kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus Christ is a reality we entered when we were baptised.

In our parents and families’ faith we were nurtured through their love and care which provided us with a simple daily witness to their trust and belief in God’s presence in their lives.

If we are not concerned about our brother and sisters in Christ’s welfare then we haven’t heard Jesus’ message.

We believe in one God who exists as a community of persons, who as The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit wishes to draw all men and women into their community of love.

Being made in the image and likeness of God means we have to live out this communion of love in our lives.

We all struggle in our relationships and friendships, yet in the sacraments we encounter the true God who gives us the wisdom and strength to bear with one another. To celebrate what unites us rather than what divides and to journey together towards our homeland in the God who calls all people to share in the joy of his life.