Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Every year, our diocesan employees hold an Advent day of recollection, during which we reflect together, via prayer, discussion and liturgy, about how best to prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. This year’s theme was immigration and the Church’s special role in the care and welcoming of migrants of all kinds.
Some might wonder if that theme, connected to this season, is a bit of a stretch.
But upon further reflection the two are tightly linked.
At Christmas, we celebrate God, through Jesus, taking on human nature. And the Scriptures tell us this occurred at a particular point of history and under the humblest of circumstances.
Sometimes it’s important to read the story anew, as if hearing it for the first time, not overwhelmed by the sentiments nurtured over so many seasons. When we do so in the Gospel accounts of Luke and Matthew, we are struck by how uncomfortable the scene is, how the main players in this story were unable to control all kinds of circumstances.
Luke’s Gospel tells us there was no room at the inn for the Holy Family. Matthew tells us about how the baby Jesus was a perceived threat to the evil King Herod, who commenced persecution and killings. Mary and Joseph were forced to flee as exiles to Egypt.
Jesus took on what we take on. He suffered, agonized, and conversely, experienced the joy of love and friendship. He was part of a world where his human limitations placed him in situations beyond earthly control.
Instead of childbirth in sanitized comfort, Mary had Jesus in the place where animals took shelter. Instead of nesting quietly in their special bond, Mary, Joseph and child were forcibly uprooted and fled to a foreign country.
In that sense, they are like us. Even if we are not technically migrants, even if we have the gift of a comfortable and loving home, there is always a part of us that feels restless, as St. Augustine noted, until we rest in Him.
In the deepest recesses of our being, we are all migrants seeking a return from the exile of our deepest anxieties, whether caused by family strife, unemployment, illness, or perhaps a personal malaise we have trouble identifying.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that, because of that first Christmas, we know that Jesus understands the struggles behind our prayers.
May Jesus fill you with hope and love as we celebrate His birth!
Bishop Joseph A. Galante