By Marcia Tinto, Member,
CCSJ & AMMR
Christmas is a stressful time for families who are on strict budgets and especially for those surviving below the poverty line. Many are unemployed as a result of the downturn in the economy, and the adverse impact of the pandemic.
Our pontiff, Pope Francis has reminded us not to “go about our way in haste, without worrying that gaps are increasing, that the greed of a few is adding to the poverty of many others”.
There is much sadness during this Advent Season. For example, for those who have lost loved ones or those who have lost their jobs. During this season, when we think of the poor and of migrants and refugees who struggle daily, not only in war-torn countries but in our own countr y, Trinidad and Tobago, remember that Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were also refugees.
We know that they had to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt when an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to leave because King Herod was planning to kill all the male children who were two years and younger. We know this story only too well.
Today many families are forced to flee their homeland or are internally displaced in their own countries. During this festive season, let us remember them in prayer and reach out in generosity and love to those in need in our own country.
This Sunday’s First Reading from the book of Micah tells us that our S aviour “will take his stand and he will shepherd them with the power of Yahweh, with the majesty of the name of his God, and they will be secure …”
This is what faith is about, trusting that God, through the birth of His Son, Jesus, will never abandon us, even when our situations seem hopeless. As Catholics, we also have a responsibility to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. The word ‘catholic’ means universal and this indicates that we are one family. No-one is independent of the other. Pope Francis reminds us that we are all interconnected. The suffering of the poor and vulnerable must affect us all. The suffering of those who have been abandoned or forgotten must affect us all. Pope Francis em phasises this point when he advises, “not to place ourselves above others, but rather lower ourselves, place ourselves at the service of the poor, make ourselves small and poor with them”.
The Christmas Carol
Poverty is not only a physical condition, but also a spiritual one. We can sometimes be poor in spirit when we do not see the need for God, or when we doubt that God is always leading us, guiding us, and oftentimes carrying us.
In today’s gospel reading (L uke 1:39–45), Mary goes to see her cousin, Elizabeth, to announce the good news. “As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary ’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit”. She asked the question, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my lord should come to me?”
Elizabeth fully embraced God in her life and rejoiced over His plan for her. She was rich in spirit because she trusted God.
Let us not forget the poor and vulnerable this Christmas—those who lack food and shelter, and those who are deprived of their basic human rights, their dignity.
The poor do not always lack material things. They can also be the elderly who have been abandoned by loved ones. The poor can be the lonely and depressed, particularly during this time of uncertainty when many families have to social distance.
In The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the character Ebenezer Scrooge was poor in spirit. He had wealth and material possessions, but he isolated himself, even from his own family. He became a miser who disliked Christmas. But Ebenezer was transformed and became generous and compassionate. We may k now people like him whom we can help to transform by being patient, tender and loving. These too are Christmas gifts, similar to the birth of Jesus which is a gift of love and forgiveness to the world.
Let’s spread love this Christmas.
This quote from The Christmas Carol is a gift that we can all receive:
“I will honour Christmas in my heart and tr y to keep it all the year … God bless us, everyone.”