This Christmas I celebrate Love that enters fully the mess of this world and keeps on acting with integrity and love even at great risk. I celebrate Jesus incarnate in our gritty mess.
The mess can feel overwhelming. What gives us the capacity to live in solidarity with all harmed by deliberate or mindless cruelty, malevolent ignorance, hatred, and plain meanness?
Christmas proclaims with joy that God is alive in the mess. The mess is where we find God. Jesus lived that solidarity from birth onward.
But hey, c'mon... really... he's JESUS. I need examples that feel more reachable. More like me.
Again and again, I turn to Catholic women religious. I learn from their work for justice, their writings, their contemplative and communal foundation. They refuse to sit safely on a pedestal. They wade into the mess.
They keep on keeping on. They do it with uncompromising and clear-eyed realism, wide-open compassion, contemplative attentiveness, courageous action, faith, hope, and love.
There's a shining star of a Christmas message embedded in the statement that LCWR released after the US election in November. The sisters said:
After a difficult and contentious election characterized by partisan rancor and divisive rhetoric, it is time for all of us to ask forgiveness and be reconciled with one another....
Now is the time to heal the deep divisions laid bare by this bruising political campaign and to tear down the walls, real or imagined, which divide us by gender, race, class, geography, lifestyle, political party and belief. [They write this out of full awareness that some of those walls are huge and deeply entrenched in systems.] This moment, these times, require us to engage in deep contemplative prayer and to risk courageous action for the sake of all who call these United States their home.
Now is the time to make space in our hearts and our homes for the needs and concerns of all God’s people....
We recommit ourselves to the gospel call... and we pledge to continue to work together with all people of good will to build God’s beloved community in this place we call home.
As we approach Christmas day to celebrate the birth of our Lord,
many of us join the shepherds with our questions and concerns:
Shall we return to our towns?
Shall we stay where we are? Shall we leave the country?
Shall we stay in this country? Is ISIS still there on the Plain of Nineveh?
Is ISIS out of Iraq? Shall we restore our houses and churches?
If we return, would we be safe?
If we stay, what will happen to our homes on the Plain of Nineveh?
With all these questions,
God in His mercy looks upon us and sends
His angels to announce the Good News confirming that:
He is Emmanuel…God is with us,
If we return, He will be there for us, If we stay here,
He stays with us, If we leave the country, He will guide our steps,
If we stay, He will open our eyes to see signs of his love amongst all this destruction,
If ISIS is still here, He will send His angels to protect us,
If ISIS is out of here, He will give us courage to start again,
If we start restoring, He will send his messengers to give a hand,
If we worry about safety, He is trustworthy… and He will never let us down,
If we do not find answers to all our questions,
He will give us peace in our hearts to sing with the angels:
Glory be to God in the highest, and peace be to His people on earth.
It's not easy to be open to whatever answer comes through prayer and community. But I know it's the right question.
And one more thing: I've noticed that Catholic sisters, like Pope Francis, tend to have warm hearts that are often ready for merriment. Even in the mess.
Merry Christmas, my friends, and happiness in the new year.