Catholic

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

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” John 17:20-21

As a part of the one body of Christ and working toward the Kingdom of God, Catholic health care must continually reach outside itself to participate in the life of the Church. An essential element of being the hands and feet of Jesus on Earth today, Catholic health care commits itself to acting in communion with the institutional Church.

Traditionally we have done this through offering sacraments and prayer and displaying the signs and symbols of our faith. For much of our history women and men religious were the concrete operational and spiritual link to the wider Church. In more recent years we have added the formation of leaders and co-workers to understand, appreciate and uphold our unique identities and core values. Even so, these practices are each internal to our facilities. No part of the Church exists for itself, but has to expand beyond its walls.

The Latin root of our word communion, communio, indicates fellowship, sharing and mutual participation. True communion does not happen without active participation in answering the call of the Gospel. Therefore, to act in communion with the Church, indeed to act as Church, is to collaborate with the parishes and diocese in which we serve. It means we prioritize partnerships with other Catholic ministries in our local context.

Jesus’ life was a dynamic combination of teaching and preaching, service and healing. To the extent we participate with our brothers and sisters who teach and preach in the name of Jesus and those who serve in his name in all manner of ways, we are better able to manifest the fullness of Christ’s body on earth and bear witness together to the Kingdom of God that both is and is to come.

 

For Reflection

“You are the Body of Christ. In you and through you the work of the incarnation must go forward. You are to be taken. You are to be blessed, broken and distributed, that you may be the means of grace and vehicles of eternal love.” Saint Augustine

  • Do I / we honor and operationalize the identity of our ministry as a “Catholic work”?
  • Do I / we reach out to the other Catholic ministries for local, regional and national partnerships?
  • Do I / we uphold the commitment of Catholic moral and ethical teachings?
  • Do I / we build or tear down community among our family and team and neighborhood?
  • Do I / we actively participate and bring the fullness of ourselves to those around us?

Prayer

God of all times and places, in each generation you gather a people unto yourself called to serve, teach and heal in your name. Send your spirit over your Church across the world that we may labor together to do your will, reveal your love and share your goodness. In this season of reflection and prayer, give us the graces we need to more fully follow you and become who we claim to be in your name. Amen.

(c) Catholic Health Association of the United States of America. Reposted with permission.

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