Monday night of last week was a very special and emotional occasion and from now on I’ll never forget April 30. On this particular night when Manchester United were beaten by Manchester City my wee sister had a wee baby and I became a wee uncle. I must confess I was getting very nervous in the build-up, after all if Man United won, I would have to listen to all their supporters.
My nerves were shattered as I tried to distract myself from thoughts of births and football. Regardless, every time the phone rang that night my heart beat faster as I awaited news about my sister from the hospital.
At nine o’clock my father rang to say there should be a new arrival within the hour. So I jumped into the car and drove up to the hospital. In the corridor outside the ward I met four very nervous expectant grandparents. My father was so uptight he barked to me, ‘gone in there and see what’s happening’.
I wasn’t sure whether he wanted me to go to the desk and ask how things were or whether he wanted me to help with the delivery of the baby. So I wandered onto the ward and went up to the nurse and asked how my sister was getting on. The nurse told me the brilliant news that my sister had a baby boy and that mother and baby were doing well.
To be honest I thought I was going to need gas and air myself as my knees went weak. The most difficult part was going back out to the corridor and saying nothing. It wasn’t my place to tell them the news; that was up to the father. So I watched with amusement as two sets of grandparents waited anxiously.
Half an hour later I was struggling to keep quiet and wondering what was keeping the father from breaking the news. All of a sudden the curtain opened across from the corridor and a proud father showed off his son. Of course it took a phone call to let the grandparents know it was a boy and his name was going to be Jake.
Everyone at home is delighted, although our wee dog is a bit lost at the minute. She doesn’t know what to make of the new member of the family. I have to confess I do have the knack, usually I’m the one who gets Jake to go to sleep, and after all I have been putting people to sleep for years at Mass!
The great advantage I have is my big belly; it’s a natural pillow or bouncy castle. I don’t mind a sleeping baby but don’t ask me to change a nappy or nurse him when he’s crying. I have been amazed how my sister is getting used to being a mother as she learns to cope with a small child. She has already told me when his clothes get too small for Jake she’ll pass them onto me as hand-me-downs. But to see her hold this tiny baby in her hands and seeing the love and care with which she handles him it gives you an idea how much God trusted Mary to look after his son. When Jesus was born, he was helpless and depended on Mary for everything. Mary loved Jesus greatly; and she loves us with this same special love.
At the moment there is a lot of talk about who the child resembles and there can be no denying it, he’s his father’s double. Fortunately these days all the baby does is eat and sleep, so he at least inherited something from his mother!
It was strange calling into home as the mother and father asked me to hold the sleeping infant as they went into the kitchen to get something to eat. Suddenly it was just me and my nephew, to be honest it was a frightening experience; he felt so light, delicate and helpless. The only thing more helpless in the room was the uncle panicking in case ‘the wain’ woke and started crying.
The last few days have certainly helped me to appreciate the sacredness of life, the gift children are to families and how much love surrounds their arrival in the world. In light of this week’s events it has been a sobering reminder of how innocent, vulnerable and helpless young children are and how they must be cherished, protected and cared for by their brothers and sisters in Christ.
In John’s gospel Jesus reminds us how he is the true vine and the challenge is to make our home in him as he makes his home in us. This is the bond of the new family we were introduced to on the day of our baptism. If we take this message to heart and make Christ’s promise to remain with us our hope, then God will journey with us through the trials and troubles of life.
Often we are tempted to give up, to wander far from God’s friendship because we have felt abandoned, unloved, unjustly punished by the events which have overshadowed our lives. However if we have the strength and courage to trust in God, even in the most forsaken and tragic circumstances we encounter, he will always remain with his children to support and guide them. In our hearts we will know we are loved and cherished. As God’s hands, feet and voice in the world, we have a responsibility to make real and witness to God’s care and compassion for all his people, especially the most vulnerable and innocent of his children.