Friday Thought with Fr Chris Ferguson

During the week I became an uncle for the third time, although, described in these terms, I do make it sound like a personal achievement.

Friday, 30th October 2020, 11:09 am
Updated Friday, 30th October 2020, 11:12 am
Friday Thought with Fr Chris Ferguson

It was my one and only sister, who had to survive nine months of pregnancy, before finally undergoing a section in the hospital. Molly, was born last Tuesday morning and weighing in at seven pounds she looked tiny. Obviously, the infant takes her height from our side of the family. With the arrival of another niece, it creates an interesting dynamic in my sister’s family. My nephew is now outnumbered, having to contend with two younger sisters. I only had one younger sister, so I can only imagine his future pain and frustration, in a female dominated household.

Already the eight-year-old has been made homeless; well, he had to give up his room and move to a box room. I had a similar traumatic experience when my sister was born, as I lost out on a single room, and was suddenly pitched into a room with two younger brothers.

The big brother issue isn’t the only complicated situation in the newly expanded family. My poor brother-in-law, even after four years is still recovering from the birth of his first daughter. When he learned of the arrival of a second daughter and third Derry woman in the home, he begged to move into parochial house. The most interesting scenario, is the aforementioned big sister, who now has licence to behave as a proper middle child.

Up until eight days ago, the world revolved around this newly designated middle child. At the moment big sister is all loved up with her little sister.

Although, you need a bag of eyes to watch the four-year-old, who has already been caught trying plaster the newly born with makeup. Yet, I must give credit where credit is due, middle child, for all her dramatics and high maintenance, has achieved in four years what I haven’t managed in forty-five years, namely she has changed a nappy. Despite the current state of harmony, it won’t be long before the sisters will be fighting over clothes and hair straighteners.

If you were asked to describe yourself, what would the first three things you’d list. Would it be name, age and sex? I tend to avoid classifications dealing with height, weight or hair colour. Or would you be tempted to make reference to your interests, qualifications, experiences, personal skills and talents. In our modern setting, we often start any discussion about personal identity beginning with ourselves as individuals. In the Mediterranean world of the New Testament, a person’s identity would have been provided for them in terms of family, village or locality. You’ll often hear Jesus being referred to as son of Mary, son of Joseph, or as a native of Nazareth, of the house of David. This was a completely different world of identity, bound up with belonging. Basically, without a family or a tribe, you were nobody. Without the support of relatives and neighbours, you literally died, left vulnerable in the face of a violent and dangerous world, without any security or protection.

In other words, if you had family and lived in a community, you belonged, you had people who laid claim to you. Of course, the other side of the coin was the obligations and responsibilities involved in being a member of a family or local community.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of social media, too many of our friendships and relationships are virtual. Our online profiles fail to reveal the truth of who we are as people, no more than collage of photos and posts.

We can be fooled into thinking we’re good friends because we liked posts and we’ve posted positive comments.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus shatters any illusions that love can be reduced to words or feelings. Love involves walking the hard miles, making sacrifices, remaining friends long after others have walked away. Love is not easy, love requires patience, commitment, generosity and strength. To love God and our neighbour as oneself, has to be a daily reality. In our family life and in our community, can we help one another to belong and feel loved.

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