Perhaps some of you have great-uncle Marmaduke still with you this fifth day of Christmas?! Maybe he is rapidly becoming a real burden and testing your Christmas spirit … drinking your best whisky in an alarming amount, repeating his ‘old’ family stories which you have heard countless times before? Add to all this, one of the teenage children is becoming fractious because he / she has had to ‘double-up’ in order that great-uncle would have a room of his own? Keeping the peace in home and family has now become an exhausting ordeal?

Relax! Tomorrow you are driving him back to his nursing home where he will spend New Year’s Day in his room watching television and drinking

(if it is permitted?) his own whisky.

Well, take a look at

OUR OLD TESTAMENT READING [SIRACH 3: 2 – 6. 12 – 14]. There, if you are father or mother, make a minor change in the words that apply to a parent, and substitute great-uncle. Help your great-uncle in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; and do not despise him all the days of his life.

Do not forget that Marmaduke is ‘family’ – he is a blood member of your family club, and to date he has never been blackballed! Also, remind yourself that one day it will be

YOU drinking (in excess?) a son’s or daughter’s whisky, and one of your grandchildren will have to double-up in order that you will have a room to yourself!

Now, it may be a good idea to read

OUR NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [COLOSSIANS 3: 12 – 21]. Put on compassion, kindness … and patience, forbearing one another … and over all these put on love, which hold everything together in perfect harmony.

However, if you read

TODAY’S PSALM [128 or 127] Saint Paul’s action programme is “the Lord’s ways,” and his way may help you to be a little more peaceful. Blessed are all those who walk (in the Lord’s) ways … indeed you shall be blessed … all the days of your life. Indeed, the Psalm indicates it is also the way in which Jerusalem prospers. This Jerusalem is the scriptural sign, symbol and image of God’s city, his home where all his family live in perfect harmony.

We must now progress further and deeper – but the foundation remains the same.

Even if we are solitary and isolated orphans we are all members of some family. In addition to the places where we, more than likely, live with some sort of group, there are other important families to which we belong and have real responsibilities and commitments – where we are called to make a Christian contribution.

Therein, everything which has been said about Marmaduke’s Christmas foray into home and family applies.

We all belong to the family of the Church, our parish and our diocese – and unless we are careful there are times when we can easily turn ourselves into ‘difficult’ and ‘tiresome’ great-uncle Marmadukes. Of course, there is another side to all this – the manner, often reluctantly impatient, in which ‘the others’ deal with, relate, respond and react to Marmaduke. Be warned on both ‘sides’ of the fence.


TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 2: 13 – 15. 19 – 23] has something important to teach. In the midst of the joy and celebration of Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph had to make major and inconvenient adjustments. No matter the cause, family life demands real forbearance – and we all need to ‘bite the bullet’ … all the days of your life. One day you may well be Marmaduke! (or duchess?)

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