A Calling For Christmas
Regarding Christmas, beloved brothers and sisters, I want take as a guide, and propose to you all, an initiative of the Diocese of Santiago de María. Bishop Rivera has launched a call that instead of spending on Christmas cards and Christmas presents, the money would be placed in an aid fund for the truly needy. For my part, I declare to you that I am going to economize on the expense of Christmas cards, and I will gladly put what I save into the aid fund, with which we are coming to the assistance of many poor people. For example, that widow with nine children, the oldest girl twelve years old, who became a widow and the children orphans by the crime committed there in Dulce Nombre de María by the authorities who assassinated a poor man. For this task, if you have no objection, I do not recommend that you should give the funds to the church. We do not want to give encouragement to those who slander us, saying that we are stealing these offerings. I would like it very much if you would perform the works of charity directly with whomever you wish.
Next to your house there is someone who does not receive a Christmas card, take them a plate of tamales. Take them something that will help them. There are many children who do not receive a toy. Do not give them toys, especially not guns. Let us not teach them violence from their early childhood. Let us help them with the most necessary things. Here is a call to celebrate a true Christmas that does not consist in overeating, in drunkenness, in presents that do not last without truly reaching the poverty of our poor people.
Extremes That Are Obstacles to Christmas
I do not doubt, my brothers, that I am not more than a humble instrument of the Lord. Blessed are those, said Christ, who are not scandalized by me. Because now the message of this Sunday of Advent is beautiful. To begin, I have these words from the Council (Vatican II) that speak of the importance of this word now. Look to see if what is happening in the conscience of each one of us is not reflected here. The Council, speaking to the world of today, says this:
The imbalances under which the modern world labors are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart of man. Many whose lives are infected with a practical materialism are blinded against any sharp insight into this kind of dramatic situation; or else, weighed down by poverty they are prevented from giving the matter any thought.”
See the two great evils of today: Those who live so comfortably, so settled in, so rich, that they are practical materialists. They don’t have time. They don’t care about analyzing the dramatic situation in the country, and in their own conscience they are comfortable in their golden cages. And on the other hand, excessive poverty does not allow time to begin to reflect. What time is a poor man going to have who is thinking today whether tomorrow he will find work? And tomorrow early in the morning with his knapsack he goes out to look for work and instead of finding work perhaps he finds prison or disappears. The two extremes get in the way at this time of Christmas. Neither of the two allows us to see the Christ who comes.
The Christmas That the Church Desires
When Isaiah was living, the splendor of the dynasty of Jesse was coming to an end. It seemed like a dry stump, like a dead tree. And the prophet says: From this dead tree God has promised a prince shall sprout forth who will do justice. Listen to this most beautiful description that you heard in the reading today: “Not by appearance shall he judge. But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.” And a beautiful description follows. Seeing the disorder of the wild animals of the jungle, as a poetic image he says that when the people are converted to God and when men put their trust in God more than in the armies of the earth, in the unjust laws of men, this is what will take place: Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb. And he continues to describe what seems impossible – that a panther will lie down with the kid, that a calf will graze with a lion; that the baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and nothing will happen to him.
Without images to express it, my brothers, now our world seems like a jungle where we men are wild animals for other men. We beat each other up, we bite each other, we eat each other. But when we are converted, when we allow the Reign of God to enter into our hearts, there will not be wolf against wolf, there will not be a lion against a lamb. We will all be brothers and sisters who eat together, rich and poor. We will feel the fatherhood of the Reign of God. This is the Christmas that the Church desires.
Christians, this is the word that the Church again repeats as Christmas approaches: “There will not be a new continent in Latin America with only changing structures, with only promulgating laws, with only repression by force.” This is to sow more problems. There can only be a new continent, a new people, with new people. As St. Paul tells us today, renewing oneself from within, putting on Christ, becoming converted as John the Baptist and Isaiah the prophet tell us.
I invite you to make this time of Advent a preparation for the birth of the Child Jesus, by a sincere examination of our hearts. Let us remove from there all of that which hinders the coming of Christ to the world, because we are all getting in the way. Let us begin by preparing the way in the desert, and the dry stump will blossom, and the stones will be converted into the sons of God, and we Salvadorans who have become wild animals one with another, will live together the joy of being brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of God.
Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5, November-December 2015