It challenges me powerfully. The story told of old reminds us to serve the cause of the poor and the afflicted. As I pour over those stirring words:
And they went to Bethlehem to register,
for Joseph and Mary were of the house
and lineage of David…
I think of all the refugees and immigrants who seek nothing but safety for their children and shelter for their families. To deny them their basic human rights is to make Christ homeless once again. Joseph and Mary had to register in obedience to an occupying imperial force. We, as followers of Jesus, must let Joseph and Mary live in freedom and dignity.
I think of George whom I met in the streets of Salt Lake City. I was there for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Over ten thousand people from all over the World, representing over fifty religions, gathered peacefully and joyfully. The richness of races, languages, cultures, ideas, and courage gave me reason to be proud to be a human being. As the powerful cry “Close the door!” we were chanting “Open your hearts!” George, a man who was homeless, became the key who opened the door to my heart.
When I saw him on the street, I thought he would ask me for money. Rather, he wanted to know if I was attending the “big” meeting with all those people. After affirming his suspicion, he told me he was a Greek Orthodox Christian from Athens. He smiled and asked me for a blessing. I was dressed in street clothes. Does he always ask perfect strangers for a blessing, I wondered? We blessed one another and embraced. He shared his story. He was grateful for his life poor and troublesome as it was. I wonder what our World would be like if we blessed each other, if we met one another, if we would embrace those we do not quite understand or appreciate.
I know the World is a dangerous place. Your never know when trouble might be brewing. You can never be too careful. Blessing people might take more courage than fearing people. We must be like Joseph and Mary. We must cross over the borders of fear, suspicion, and hate. There is a child in need of a home, a stranger in need of welcome, a sinner in need of forgiveness, an enemy in need of love, and a World in need of a blessing.
The next time I see a stranger I wonder if I will have the courage of George. Will I ask for a blessing or engage my fears? Will I open my heart or slam the door shut? I pray for the courage to let the story I love take flesh in the deeds of my hands, the attitude of my heart, and the thoughts of my mind. My blessings to you this Christmastide.
Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.