By Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes
“Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.” (Lk, 6:30)
While it is true that we are in the season of giving, the Lord’s challenge to us in Luke’s Gospel is probably not what we had in mind. Sure, we are willing to spend our money on gifts for the ones we love, and hopefully, if we are able, we offer some of our treasure to those most in need. But to those who have wronged us? That’s a more difficult proposition.
If we read on in that same Gospel, Jesus tells us that it is just this kind of generosity that marks us as children of God. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” He says.
We have heard these words recently as the tagline for the Year of Mercy that our Church has begun. There is genuine excitement in our Diocese around this Year as we reflect on Mercy and discern how we can better practice it in our lives. At the same time, the world around us continues: from the tragic attack at the Inland Regional Center in our own Diocese this month to the attacks in Paris on November 13, it can be hard to see mercy and that spirit of unconditional giving to which the Lord calls us.
This is especially painful when we look at the millions of refugees on our planet who are fleeing death and destitution in their homeland but are increasingly greeted with suspicion or even hostility. It would be easier for us to give into the fear, however legitimate, of this moment and say to our foreign brothers and sisters, “there is no room at the inn.” But that is not who we are as Catholics.
We can look at the original Christmas story, of how our Lord came to be born in the humblest of places after a long and perilous journey from a distant land, and recognize the face of Jesus in these millions of refugees. The fear and trauma we feel in the wake of the San Bernardino attack is the very same fear and trauma that they have lived with, that has spurred their migration.
I do not discount the need for us to be concerned about the safety and security of our families and communities. We are in an era that calls us to be more vigilant. We must also own the feelings we have today – anger, fear, sadness – and resist the impulse to just “move on.”
It is my hope that after we have walked through this valley of darkness, after we have cried, dialogued with each other and prayed, we will feel hope. It is the same hope we feel each Christmas when we celebrate the promise of salvation that came in our Savior’s birth, Emmanuel. Indeed, God is with us more than ever. Let us answer his call to be giving of heart and spirit.
My best wishes to you and your loved ones for a joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year.