Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to all.

Bless the Lord, ice and cold…Bless the Lord, frosts and snows…

I always smile when I think of these lines from chapter 3 in the Book of Daniel in the Bible. Because that same chapter tells us (eight times in the NRSV translation) that the young men praying these lines were in “a furnace of blazing fire.” Maybe it’s easy to think that ice and cold and frosts and snows are great blessings when one is in the midst of great heat.

But here in western Canada, where I am spending Christmas with my family, I confess that the ice and cold sure don’t seem like blessings at the moment. Ouch! I can hardly breathe outside some days. Ouch! Get me back to Mexico!

But I see that in the mountains of Mexico the people are also experiencing cold. The Mexican meteorologists are calling it “Cold Front Number 20.” It’s not as bad as 30 or 40 below, but throw in the cold rain and the fact that thousands of people are still living under plastic tarps (since Tropical Storm Manuel in mid-September), and it means that the cold is hardly perceived as a blessing.

I think of the many “displaced” people I know there: the 81 families from Tepeyac; the 145 families from Union de las Peras; the 114 families from La Lucerna; the 44 families from Filo de Acatepec; the 445 families (yes, 445—it’s not a typo) from Moyotepec…and the list could go on.

So at the same time that I feel grateful to be celebrating Christmas here with my loved ones in a nice, warm house, I think too of my Mexican friends who are struggling in very difficult situations for life for themselves and their loved ones. And I breathe a prayer of thanks to Mission Mexico—and to all the people who support Mission Mexico—for assisting them in their efforts.

It will be good to get back to Mexico on January 6. But it is great to have time now to be with my wife and two daughters and other friends here in Regina, Saskatchewan. Memories made now will hopefully “keep me going” during some tough times in the mountains of Mexico in 2014.

One nourishing memory will be the potluck dinner that I was invited to at the offices of the Archdiocese of Regina last week (thank you, everyone). I worked in those offices for four years as the catechetical coordinator, and I know the many challenges that my friends on the archdiocesan team encounter in their work. Whenever I think of these friends, I think of some words written by Pope Francis in his recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). In article 266, Francis writes:

…we are convinced from personal experience
 that it is not the same thing
 to have known Jesus as not to have known him,
 not the same thing to walk with him as to walk blindly, 
not the same thing to hear his word as not to know it, 
and not the same thing to contemplate him, to worship him, 
to find our peace in him, as not to. 
It is not the same thing to try to build the world with his Gospel
 as to try to do so by our own lights. 
We know well that with Jesus life becomes richer 
and that with him 
it is easier to find meaning in everything.
In a way, I like to think that this is the "spirit" nourishing not only my friends on the archdiocesan team in Regina, but also many of the people involved with Mission Mexico—including myself. We are simply striving  (as the prophet Micah expressed it more than 2500 years ago) “to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God.”

My friends, Merry Christmas. My wish for this beautiful time of year is taken from today’s gospel: that the rising Sun will visit us “to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

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