When Christ was born, God said: I need your help … happiness grows if we create space for younger people to help


When Christ was born, God said: I need your help … happiness grows if we create space for younger people to help

Over the last 12 months, I’ve become more aware of the struggles that parents are experiencing with their children and the rapidly changing social environment.  The disagreements and, sometimes, anger/ rejection that develops between children and parents can be very distressing.

The Christmas message and Advent period can help us establish more peace in our hearts and minds as the journey of life continues – even if the family boat is being rocked by big waves.

Our First Reading, today, reminds us that God is always raising up special people at the right time, at difficult moments in the “world”.  Of course, we all assume God is talking about the coming of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ was, of course, THE pivot-point for the world.

But Christ is also visiting us today.  However, will we recognise these special people?  When Jesus came, very few recognised Him.  Why?  Christ arrived in poverty, spoke a message that was shocking, and travelled around like a poor man.

The second important point is that Christ did not come to help the world generally, but to visit each one of us.  Christ said: I’ve come to heal the sick; and in another place: I must leave this place so that I can share the good news in other places, also.

Now, Christ is not only revealed in people, but also in situations.  So, our response to situations can reveal God present in our midst: not because of the crisis, but in our response to the crisis.  I was intrigued by this quote from a Climate Change denier, because it nicely captures some essential elements of the human person and our NEEDS.

This is the heart of the matter: climate alarmism is powerful because it has emerged as the alternative religion for supposedly secular people, providing many of the same psychological benefits as traditional faith.  It offers a purpose — to save the world from climate change — and a story that casts the alarmists as heroes.  And it provides a way for them to find meaning in their lives...” https://unherd.com/2021/11/climate-change-will-not-be-catastrophic/

Although I think the article is simplistic, and appeals to some because it says we don’t have to change – and we all hate change! – the quote highlights the need for people to have a purpose in life, and something to fight for.  (The other important point in the article is that we need to avoid extreme changes that will create suffering for the poor.)

I believe many of the modern day struggles in family life – especially in wealthier countries – is because we no longer have to fight to survive!  Everything is available at the “shop”.  And what “my” parents say, is becoming less important, because the Government will support me.

Perhaps, part of the cause of more difficult relationships between parents and children is caused by children feeling that they are not really needed.  In previous generations, children were actively involved in helping the family survive.  They developed (unconsciously), a great sense of importance and value because the family needed them.

The challenge for parents is helping children connect to a cause greater than themselves.  But, usually, we focus on how to help our children be personally successful.

Somehow, we have to help our children be connected to “volunteer” groups that help others, or something that benefits the whole community.  eg. homeless shelters, local fire brigade, visiting the sick and elderly, help run the local social events, etc.

In many of our Catholic Schools, this is happening while at school; and the response of students is always encouraging: they feel good about themselves, they are amazed that other people are in difficult situations (helps them appreciate what they have).

Protecting the environment is becoming a channel for God’s grace to enter into our lives.  Community efforts to clean-up and protect the environment may be a more attractive “volunteer” group for many young people these days: (addressing our 5 key emotional needs)

  1. They will be appreciated by others (praise = love);
    2. A sense of purpose in life (contributing & needed, create a sense of belonging);
    3. Working with others on something important (a sense of joy);
    4. They will feel they are doing something important (sense of achievement);
    5. Knowing it will help them “tomorrow” gives meaning to sacrifice (spiritual structure).

Perhaps the older people (can be parents or youth) can start in their local communities and create opportunities where they need younger/ stronger/ more people to help.

Christ came in poverty.  But that does not only mean a lack of material things.  God came in a way that said: I need your help.  How often do we allow younger people to help us?  During Advent, can we reflect on our self-sufficiency?  Can we create space to need others?

By Gerard Conlan, OMI