“In Jesus, God became one of us, and like us, experienced the protection, care, love and guidance of parents.”
Joan Baez once sang a song of people on the edge of society called ‘There But For Fortune,’ with the verse: ‘Show me a prison, show me a jail, show me a prisoner whose face has gone pale, and I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why, and there but for fortune, may go you or I’. I think that the song refers to people raised in homes without a functioning family—that is, without much stability, love and support as they grew up. They were people who suffered abuse and neglect. The ideals of their youth withered, and their confidence in themselves remained fragile and unsupported.
Today’s celebration reminds us of the importance of the Holy Family in the growth of Jesus of Nazareth, and the importance of a family in the growth of each of us. God moulds us over time out of the clay of our substance, through the love and generosity and patience of our parents and relations, like Mary and Joseph, as well as the wise and holy people of our faith community and society, like Anna and Simeon. God eventually brings a gift to the rest of the human family, and even to the rest of Creation, in the person of someone who becomes fully the person they were meant to be from the start.
When the families of other regions in the world come to our binational border community here of Juarez and El Paso, shelters in both Mexico and the U.S. provide space for sleeping, eating, washing and play. Local volunteers often help the families prepare food and clean the shelters, and will organize classes and games for the children. In this way, our communities that host the refugees and migrating people become like large families for them, making sure that they feel loved and welcome, which allows the children to have the kind of support and security that they need to develop their intellectual and spiritual gifts, as well as to work and play together as peers. It is easy to see that considering people from other countries as sisters and brothers to us is very important for the peace and security of the whole world, and can be extended to an attitude of respect for the natural home we all share and take care of, the family of our natural home, with the plants and animals that also need respect and love. Community gardens near the shelters welcome the presence of these guests.
I remember a little seven-year-old girl from Honduras, who was very sad and confused when she and her mother came to the Columban Mission Centre along with dozens of other migrating people, crowding into the dining area after a government bus dropped them off. She sat on her mother’s lap and wouldn’t stop quietly crying, obviously finding the whole situation chaotic and uncomfortable. But after the group was welcomed and each family met with a volunteer, who took down their basic information and helped them contact their friends or relatives already in the country, the children began to play with each other. Several older children, at the urging of their parents, paid special attention to this very sad little girl, and by the next day, she had made friends, and one or two older girls sat down to play with her. She was smiling and happy, and the mothers commented on how the children could take care of one another in these challenging conditions.
Let us recognize and feel thankful for our opportunities to be Mary and Joseph, or Simeon and Anna, to the children in our lives today, and in this way to cooperate with the work of God, who makes us all his children at Christmas, through the Lord Jesus, our brother.