Christmas blessings, dear family of the Church in the Archdiocese of New York!
Often am I asked what I consider to be pointers, or lessons, from this festive season.
Many come to mind, but chew on these two for a while: connection, and help.
Connection: God intends us to be connected, to Him, to one another, to creation. We admit we’re not as connected as He wants, or we want.
Things seem fractured, disintegrating, distant, isolated, rather than connected. I can’t even make eye contact to nod a “good morning” as I walk down the street, because everyone is absorbed in a phone!
A successful counselor who works with addicts tells me that the opposite of addiction is connection. Instead of connecting with alcohol and drugs, connect with others, The Other, and your genuine, sober, clearheaded self.
In the Garden of Eden, we were connected with God—our first parents walked with Him in friendship—and with His creation in the Garden. We blew that.
That’s what Christmas is all about. God reconnects us to Him! He can’t get much closer to us than by becoming one of us! “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us!”
Babies often connect people: parents, families, old friends, the couple themselves grow in love as they hold their baby.
That’s what the baby of Bethlehem does. We’re all family wanting to pick Him up and hold Him. He brings us together. We’re connected with God, with our true selves, with others. That’s what Christmas does: it reconnects us with God and others.
Help! There’s the second lesson. Sometimes when I visit hospitals or acute nursing care facilities I hear patients exclaim, “Help me!” They feel alone, unable to function, maybe even strapped into bed so they do not fall out. All they know is that they need help and they themselves are helpless.
That is how creation is; that’s how creatures are; that’s how this individual creature— me—is. We need help! There are certain problems I am unable to solve on my own, a number of headaches for which I do not have an aspirin, horror stories for which there is no“... happily ever after.”
That’s all a way of expressing our utter need for a savior. Hard as we try, we end up whispering with Auden, the poet, “Nothing that is possible can save us.” We need, in other words, help from beyond, which to us appears impossible, or miraculous.
We need help! We need a savior! That is the “primal scream” of faith. It is hard to admit that. Help will come, we argue, from politics, policy, money, education, programs, drugs, sex, crime, gambling, alcohol, schemes, medicine...and, thank God, sometimes it can. But, sooner or later, when all of the above are exhausted, we still utter, “I need help.”
To admit we need a savior is the essence of faith. Jesus, the Savior, was moved when someone simply stated, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Come, O long-expected Savior!”
Thank you, God our Father, for sending us your son to help us!
Thank you, Jesus, for coming as our Savior!
We believe you!
We trust in you!
We love you!
We need you!
As hard as I work at it, Jesus, there are certain things from which I cannot save myself. Will you do the saving?
At Christmas, we are connected with all those who admit they need help. That’s family, friends...that’s the Church.
I am very grateful, as your archbishop, to be connected with God, Emmanuel, and with all of you, in our daily plea for help, in our Christmas joy that a Savior to rescue us has been born!