It is almost Christmas and so I think it is time to give thanks for one of my favorite gifts faith has brought me: a Catholic worldview. To be sure, this worldview is not unique to Catholicism, truth is never held by a singular group of people, but the Catholic church introduced to me and nurtured a particular way of thinking for which I am immensely grateful.
In short, almost every guideline the church gives us is rooted in two areas: love of life and love of community.
Catholics know that life matters: all life. We may go astray when we attempt to act out this love, but time and again our leaders remind us that life is of the utmost importance. Love of life is why we care about immigration and the death penalty and abortion and education and the environment and health care. It is why we care about nearly everything.
This love urged early American Catholics to found hospitals and schools for the underserved members of our communities. This love is why our religious Brothers and Sisters enter into prisons to be with the incarcerated. This love is why Catholics choose to spend their lives serving others, because we know that our life is not the only one that matters. A Catholic worldview reveals that every single person’s life is a gift and we have a responsibility to care.
One particular gift this worldview has given me is the ability to move beyond the stereotypes and labels we assign to groups of people and consider individual stories. It is harder to hate when you understand the pain. It is easier to love when you share in the joy.
This year, in particular, I have been so grateful for this gift. A year spent at home, ironically, has allowed my greater community to grow. Through efforts to connect, I’ve heard stories from people outside of my social circle. I’ve heard the pain black and indigenous people still face in this country. I’ve heard the struggles of migrants at the border fleeing for their lives. I’ve learned what it is like to never leave your home in a pandemic world due to immunocompromised health. I’ve watched as people are forced into poverty due to inaction by government leaders.
Hearing these stories has reminded me that before we can truly love, we must take the time to listen. Loving is hard because it is vulnerable. It means giving a little of ourselves and allowing ourselves to receive a little of somebody else. There is risk, but overwhelmingly, risking love opens us up to the beauty of experiencing a love that grows. Loving every single life expands into loving families and towns and cities and countries. Loving every single life expands into fully loving God.
Some say that the miracle of loaves and fishes was not Jesus’ choice to abundantly create, but our choice to abundantly love, so moved by Jesus’ guidance that we shared everything we brought with our neighbors so that none would starve.
We need Jesus. We need him not only because he died for us on the cross, but because he showed us how to love. This year, in particular, a year when Christians have embarrassed themselves claiming love of country over love of people, I am excited for Christmas to lead us back to the beginning of that love. It is time for us, once again, to vulnerably allow a little of Jesus into our hearts.
God made a choice when he sent us a baby as our savior. Sending a helpless infant reminds us that care for others is important to God. Jesus didn’t need to come down to earth to save us in this particular way. We needed Jesus to come to earth to show us how to be a part of saving ourselves, that our individual relationship with God is important, but, as Pope Francis says, “No one is saved alone.”
As Catholics we believe that we are saved together, our actions and prayers uniting for the good that loving God, loving Jesus, and loving one another inevitably brings.
As we prepare for this beautiful morning when a baby was born to poor parents in a strange land underneath a Christmas star, I wish you the Merriest of Christmases and give thanks for the birth of a babe who continues to teach us how to love.