Dear Friends in Christ,
On September 20th of this year, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, leaving the Caribbean Island without electric power and water and affected by an unprecedented path of destruction. Still today many people are without the basic necessities of life. Because many still don’t have electricity, Internet, TV, or cell phone service, families are spending more time together, family members are communicating with each other and rediscovering the value of family time.
Jesus came to reconnect us with God and with one another. He came to reestablish the links that were broken and rebuild the bridges that were destroyed by sin. No tie is more powerful in this world than the bond between family members. Our family and our faith are the most precious gifts we have.
Research shows that people who are disconnected from the real world and from real people suffer serious consequences and are less happy than people who are connected with other people, especially with family. We were not made to live alone or to live with virtual connection. We were made to live in a family, in society and connected with each other. Research has also shown that children of families who spend time together and who share meals together, do better in school and are less likely to get in trouble or get involved with alcohol or drugs. Imagine how many more benefits it would bring to families and children if they prayed together, went to church together and spent real quality time together sharing their values and celebrating their faith!
What we do in this life, good or bad, impacts the lives of others. Therefore, we are responsible for each other. Our attitudes and our behavior affect our relationship with God and with humanity. Being part of a family and of a social group is a privilege and responsibility. Loving and being loved is the essence of the human existence. It is in the family that we learn how to love and consequently how to live. It is the key to the meaning of life itself. “The family lives its Spirituality precisely by being at one and at the same time a domestic Church and a vital cell for transforming the world” (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia # 324).
The coming of Jesus made it possible to reconnect ourselves with God and with each other. He gave us the tools to help us break the barriers of separation and division. He wants to make of us one family, living as brothers and sisters. Obviously, we have a long way to go. There are still separations, divisions, hatred and discrimination. All of these are the effects of original sin, but we have been redeemed. Therefore, we are called to resist the temptations of isolating ourselves from our families or of fostering divisions among God’s people. We are more alike than we are different. We must find and affirm what we have in common rather than what is different in us. Christ is our peace. He broke the barriers of hostility that kept us apart. “The pleasure of belonging to one another leads to seeing life as a common project, putting the other’s happiness ahead of my own” (Amoris Laetitia #220).
As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us pause and remember the family of Nazareth, the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and acknowledge the importance of families in our own lives. We live in a time when everyone is very much influenced and affected by the power of modern communication tools such as smartphones, tablets and many others. We are impacted by the Internet, social and virtual communication. Many, especially the younger generation, are so attached to the virtual world that they end up disconnected from the real world and from real people. My hope and prayer is that we will make this Christmas a real celebration of family and of unity. “For a Child is born to us, a Son is given us; upon His shoulder dominion rests. They name Him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Is 9:5).
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., D.D.
Bishop of Fall River