This morning at the nursing home, one of our elders gave me a little bag of things to take with me to give folks in El Salvador. It had a tube of antibiotic ointment, a box of band-aids, and some notepads. I was so touched by that. It is moving when people who have little themselves find a way to give to others who have even less. Like when our guys in the migrant ministry send vegetables to St Joe’s in the summer and fall, or the guest from St Joe’s who gave me some food to give to the migrants! The blessings flow both ways.
Some of you have found ways to give to the folks we serve, as well. I have Walmart gift cards for every migrant family I know, all from one family, and other gift cards for those who might need something extra. Two of my co-workers decided to each buy gifts for a migrant child. I will enjoy playing Santa, um, Sancho Claus and delivering those.
It is also very moving this year to realize that we are looking for housing for a young pregnant couple, at Christmas time. These two played Maria and Jose in our Christmas Eve pageant last year, and now they are expecting a baby for real. They are safe and well for now, and I trust that we will find a place in good time. It was disappointing last week to realize that the “perfect” place I found would not do, but my life experience says to thank God and trust that it is all for the good. Some of you might remember back in the 1980’s at Corpus Christi when we were looking for a home for our homeless ministry, and had found a place we were all excited about. It would take a lot of money and a lot of work, but we were ready and willing. Then the neighbors decided they didn’t want a homeless shelter on their street. I remember we went downtown to the mayor’s office, trying to keep that house, but we lost it. Seems to me it was about a week later that someone offered us the building that is now Dimitri House, for a whole lot less money, not needing repairs, and with a second building out back. Our disappointment turned out to be a tremendous gift. May it be so for this ministry, as well.
Last night we celebrated a Mass to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was the first time we had Mass in the little house where folks have lived for a year, now. It was also our first bi-lingual Mass, as the English speaking girlfriend of one of the men was with us. We intend to celebrate again on Christmas Eve, but don’t yet know where. If you are looking for a big way to give this Christmas, and have the time, it would be lovely if we could celebrate at my house in the city like we did last year. That means driving to Elba and back on Christmas Eve, and again Christmas morning. Please let me know if you are moved to do that… it does include being welcomed in to Christmas Eve dinner! (I can take 4 people in my car, but there are about ten or twelve people to bring). (If we do this we will also need the loan of air mattresses and sleeping bags).
When we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe last night, we remembered that she appeared ten years after the Aztec conquest, when the native people of what is now Mexico were utterly, utterly defeated. Note that the man she appeared to, Juan Diego, had even lost his Indian name. But there she was, with skin like his, speaking his language, using his familiar Aztec religious symbols. It was like God was saying, “Psst! It’s me! Don’t worry! I’m the same God you have always known and loved!” And most of all, she spoke to him with respect. She stood, and he stood; she spoke to him as an equal. We talked about that; about the people who might not speak to one with respect. Perhaps a boss. Perhaps someone in the street, or in a store. But that is never the voice of God. Our God lifts us up and sees what is best in us. And our God is with us in the worst times of our lives. God is here, and don’t be afraid. I love to see the light that shines in people’s eyes when that message clicks: you – yes, you – are a person worthy of respect. You have dignity and worth. You!
I don’t expect to write a bulletin next week, as I will be in El Salvador. No Mass at St Romero’s this Sunday, but we will be back at St Joe’s at 11 am on Sunday December 23, and you are most welcome to join us, then.
Blessings and peace in this Advent season
Love and light to all,
Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620