According to a recent report released by Refugees International there are an estimated 20 million refugees in the world today. This is a terrible reflection of the fact that war and terrorism, religious and political intolerance brings enormous suffering to those who are forced to leave their home but also to their loved ones who are left behind. This must surely count as one of the great structural sins of society.
Of course the sad reality of people being forced into exile and into becoming refugees is not a contemporary phenomenon. Down through all the ages of human history this has been part of human experience, most notably during the 20th century and during the two World Wars.
Today here in the Archdiocese of Cape Town we celebrate our Patronal Feast which is the Solemnity of the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. It is fitting therefore that today we reflect on the fact that Mary and Joseph, along with their baby son Jesus, were forced to leave their home and become refugees in order to escape from religious persecution. They made their way to Egypt, which significantly means that the Holy Family spent years of their life together in Africa.
In our parish today we are truly blessed because an anonymous member of the parish recently commissioned Br. Richard to paint an icon of the Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. The icon is both beautiful and prayerful. We thank the kind person who offers the icon to the parish and Br Richard for the many hours he has worked on it. The icon will be solemnly blessed at the 9.a.m. Mass today and will be a permanent presence in our Church. It is my hope that the icon will become a place of prayer for all our parishioners and that it will allow us to remember how much the Holy Family had direct experience of suffering and exile. I pray too that the icon will be a sacred space for us to remember and bring to God all those today who encounter the trauma of being forced into exile and into becoming refugees.
Fr. Gerard, CSsR