As we prepare for Christmas and take time out of our lives to consider the real presence of Christ in our midst, let’s also take stock of our year. Where was the Christ child in our blessings and our disappointments?
Where is he in our grief and joy, our health and our illnesses?
Where, too, was he in the midst of hotly contested social issues and widespread violence?
Hope is where he is. Christ is always there offering new life in him, bringing hope for eternal life.
While vulnerable life continues to be threatened by abortion, capital punishment and euthanasia, new hope for protections of life have emerged this year.
The way has been cleared for a 2017 Kentucky law that was being challenged in the courts. The Supreme Court decided last month not to hear a challenge to the informed consent law.
Also this year, 30 legislators — from both sides of the aisle in the House — sponsored legislation to abolish the death penalty in Kentucky.
Like answers to prayer, we also find hope in the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have been providing care for impoverished elderly men and women in the area over the course of 150 years; groups of mothers who are doing grassroots work to support women in crisis pregnancies; and Catholic Charities, which has established a new “Lifeline” to help families.
Healing and loss
Some families experienced loss this year. Others are dealing with serious diagnoses and treatments.
Our own Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz has dealt with an aggressive form of cancer this year and has just returned to the archdiocese in time for Christmas.
While we grieve the ravages of illness and death, we can take heart in the promise of eternal life and hope for healing. Archbishop Kurtz has also pointed out the life-giving prayer that flows from hardship. Reflecting on his health in late October, he noted, “Sickness is perhaps the clearest reminder for us to pray for each other and to give thanks to God for the gift of life.”
Like the Holy Family, immigrants and refugees continue to seek safety in the United States, while our policies not only deny many of them the opportunity for new lives here, but in some cases on our southern border actually condemn them to inhumane conditions or death.
Hope lies in the many people who have stood up in protest and knelt down in prayer, Catholic Charities and other organizations that are working on behalf of these vulnerable people and in the leaders of faith communities who have raised their considerable voices.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has lent its powerful voice on their behalf, reminding our leaders, “America welcomes refugees; that is who we are, that is what we do.”
Violence has reached plague proportions in the U.S. This year alone, Louisville counts at least 90 people who lost their lives to gunshots.
Mass shootings in our streets, schools, shops, military bases and other run-of-the-mill locations seem to happen weekly. They are no longer surprising.
We can find hope in the young people and mothers who have taken the lead on this issue.
Last week, close to 150 people from a variety of faiths gathered at St. Martin de Porres Church to pray for local victims of gun violence. In early August, hundreds gathered in downtown Louisville for a vigil to end gun violence. In mid August, St. Francis of Assisi middle school students held signs on Bardstown Road in the Highlands to show support for victims of violence.
Having faced all of these challenges in 2019, in addition to the chaos in our political realm, we close the year with some understandable weariness. But let’s not let that weariness jade us. Let’s find hope for 2020 in the Christ child and his Holy Family, where hope begins for all of us.
Pope Francis wrote an apostolic exhortation this year especially for young people. But he also speaks to all Catholics when he writes in the document “Christ Lives”:
“Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive!”