“Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among people of goodwill.” (Lk. 2:14)

This is the song the angels sing at the birth of Christ. They give glory to God in the highest because, paradoxically, God has not stayed in the highest. God “has visited and redeemed [his] people.” (Lk. 1:68)

Those who grasp this revelation, either implicitly or explicitly, know how to celebrate Advent/Christmas. They become people of goodwill bringing peace into the broken and estranged ways of the earth.   

Catholic Health Care has long acknowledged people of goodwill and recognized them as essential to its mission. The message of Catholic Social Teaching is that people of goodwill are the targeted listeners for its teachings and the carriers of its values of dignity and common good. Advent/Christmas is their time of year, a time when people of goodwill “do their thing.” abounds. 

People of goodwill reach out to make things better. They find themselves in situations that are not what they should be. It may be a situation of needless division among people working together, a situation where hardness of heart has replaced compassion, a situation where overlooking the poor has become a habit, a situation where the mediocre is accepted as the norm, a situation where not speaking the full truth is rationalized as self-protection, and all other situations where they sense a “rightness” is missing.

In these situations, people of goodwill begin a process of repair. Goodwill is more than an internal desire, a wish that things were not so bad. Goodwill is the art of entering into situations and discerning the path of greater peace. It sees a way forward that brings reconciliation and a fuller sense of life. Then it gently yet adamantly walks toward that desired future.

Second, people of goodwill give thanks whenever they see the good emerging. They do not have to be the main actors. Just the opposite. The glory of God is present in situations, and it will be mediated by many factors. But, whenever the good is emerging, it needs to be named and praised. People of goodwill are long on gratitude. Thanking is something they learn to do in many ways. As the spiritual saying has it, “There are a thousand ways to bow and kiss the earth.”

People of goodwill better situations themselves and thank all those who better situations.  We may know many of these people of goodwill.  More than that. In the depth of ourselves, Advent/Christmas tells we are those people of good will.

Post courtesy of Catholic Health Association USA.

A significant feature of Advent/ Christmas is attending to the poor. There are toy drives for poor children, Christmas baskets for those without, Christmas Eve and Christmas day meals in social service settings with prominent political and Church figures serving, solicitation for donations from every helping agency, etc. Reaching out to the more prosperous to help the lesser and least at the heart of the Christmas season.  

Among Christians, the rationale for this is often cited as “the poor Christ.” Jesus was born in impoverished conditions, in a stable because there was no room in the inn. Therefore, to celebrate his birth all the poor are welcomed and included. 

But in our time an episode from the infancy narrative of St. Matthew that is closely aligned with poverty and vulnerability seems particularly relevant.

“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and flee into Egypt … for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him.” (Mt. 2: 13)

However the birth of Jesus is portrayed, the events after his birth are clear. The Holy Family are refugees.

This bare statement that Joseph, Mary, and the child are fleeing murderous intent connects them to our present planetary situation where millions of people are fleeing terror and violence. Every evening on television news we see the suffering on families on the run in excruciating detail. The word migration is too neutral. The more appropriate name is escape. Herod, in multiple modern guises, is still insidiously at work.

The Catholic Health Care tradition has always been fiercely committed to welcoming the poor and vulnerable. This conviction has led the people of Catholic Health Care to embrace the virtue of solidarity. Solidarity is living in connection with the poor and disadvantaged and working to alleviate their conditions.

It is never obvious what solidarity with the refugees entails. It may mean taking up a certain stand in conversations, or advocating for positions through political forums, or donating to causes, or joining efforts to help out in certain situations. But once this Christmas solidarity is in place, it will find a way, sometimes small and sometimes large, to express itself.

In Lent of 2019, a large sculpture will be erected in St. Peter’s square in Rome. It is a boat with many people squeezed into it, a symbol of the refugee migration of the Mediterranean world. The title of the sculpture is “Angels Unaware.”

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unware.” (Heb. 13:2)

Post courtesy of The Catholic Health Association USA

Second Sunday of Advent Reflection: Treasuring Christmas Memories

Monday, December 10, 2018

At a Christmas Eve gathering, a woman reached out her hand and cradled an ornament on the tree. A friend noticed she had tears in her eyes and asked, “You ok?”
“Nothing wrong,” she said. “Just remembering.”
The Advent and Christmas season is a time of memories. We do not plan them; they come unbidden. They are [more…]

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Reflection for the third week of advent

Sunday, December 17, 2017

No Time To Stifle Ourselves
Many will know of the 1970’s television series, All In The Family. The two main characters were Archie Bunker and his wife Edith Bunker. Archie was a crusty, unfiltered blue-collar guy who expressed opinions on race, religion and other social topics in a way that would make people cringe today. Edith, [more…]

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Reflection for the second week of Advent

Sunday, December 10, 2017

In the Meantime
There was a post on Facebook commemorating a person who recently died. It read simply: “Born 1932. Died 2017. In between, amazing human being.” It was a very simple way to sum up the life of the person. The sentiment it represents is echoed to some extent in the exhortation in the Second [more…]

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Reflection for first week of Advent

Sunday, December 3, 2017

By Turning, Turning, We Come ‘Round Right
Most of us are aware that as we begin this season of Advent, we begin a new year, a new cycle in our liturgical observance. We begin to tell the story of God’s action in our history by turning back to promises of old, promises fulfilled in the person [more…]

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Reflection for the fourth week of Advent: Protectors and teachers of the young

Sunday, December 18, 2016

(This reflection is reposted from Catholic Health Association.) As we mark the fourth week of Advent, while the world goes about preparing to celebrate Christmas, let’s take some time to consider the children in our communities and around the globe who can only hope to have a home, to live and be healthy. Let’s also [more…]

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Reflection for the third week of Advent: Caring for the next generation

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Midway in Life’s Journey: Caring for the Next Generation
(This reflection is reposted from Catholic Health Association.)The cycle of the liturgical year begins as all long journeys begin, with fear, dread and hope in the discoveries to come. It is the third week of Advent, and we are mid-way in our journey toward the joy [more…]

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Advent reflection: hope fulfilled

Sunday, December 20, 2015

“O Radiant Dawn, come and shine on those who dwell in the darkness of the shadow of death.” O Antiphon – December 21

Have you ever been told not to get your hopes too high? The kind admonisher is trying to protect you. But you, like all human beings, still hope for everything, no matter the odds!
What [more…]

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Advent reflection: finding joy

Monday, December 14, 2015

“The Lord, your God … will rejoice over you with gladness.” Zephaniah 3:17
Is there a difference between happiness and joy? Walking through the Med-Surg area, the chaplain juggled that question. He had just left Betty whose test results had proven benign. Her reaction still echoed in his mind. Like someone waking from a bad dream, she [more…]

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