Diakonia: A Revolution of Tenderness
''Unto us a child is born, come let us adore!"
In the coming days, our churches will be filled as young and old feel drawn to our parishes by the nativity scenes, the carols, and a chance to see many old friends and neighbors. At home children and grandchildren wait with anticipation and delight around the decorated tree as extended families share stories from the year just past and remember their own childhood Christmas experiences. Children are at the center of this season of giving, this time of peace and joy when families reconnect and differences are put aside. Wherever we are, and whatever our age, our eyes and attention are focused on the children in our midst. The excitement of the children becomes our excitement, and the hope of the children becomes our joy. Each of us, in our own way, becomes a child again in this season that is centered around the birth of a single child in a stable in Bethlehem.
The child Jesus is the savior of the world -- the Light that comes into the world and no darkness will overcome it. Because of the 'yes' of Mary the infinite value of every child from the moment of conception has been emblazoned in our faith and into our hearts. And this child born in a manger would grow in strength and wisdom, nurtured by the love of his holy family, to show us through his every word, gesture, and action that every human life is sacred and infinitely valuable in God's eyes. Born into poverty, laid in a feeding trough, a refugee from violence as an infant, this child will be rejected by his own, and as a man become a political prisoner and be put to death by those in positions of power. The life of this single child changed the world, toppled kings, saved civilization, and inflamed the hearts of ordinary men and women to undertake extraordinary works of mercy and compassion throughout history.
Now, in this darkest time of the year, when sunrise comes later and sunset earlier than any other days, we turn again to the light of this child Jesus to show us the way to live more honest and more holy lives. We see in this child of the manger a light that draws us deeper into the light of truth in this time of darkness in our Church, in our country, and in our world. We turn again to his light to show us the way to rebuild his Church broken by shepherds that forgot that the life of a single child is worth more than any institution. We turn again to his light to bring healing to each child wounded and haunted by abuse in our Church and neglect by our bishops. We call out to his light to shine in the hearts of the Holy Father and the bishops when they meet in Rome in a few months so that they will focus entirely on accountability for the life of every single child. We turn again to his light to bring peace and wisdom to our country and our world that pulls children from their mother's arms at our borders, allows children to starve in proxy wars, and watches children drown at sea fleeing violence. We cry out again to his light to shine in each of our hearts to put an end to gun violence against children in our schools and our neighborhoods.
The light of this child Jesus continues to burn brightly, as it always has. As we celebrate with gratitude and joy at God's merciful love asleep in the manger, may he remind us again and again that the life of a single child is worth more than any institution, any border, or any politics. As Isaiah beckoned us in Scripture, "though our sins be crimson ... come let us set things right." Christmas brings us back, refocuses us, to the source of love and healing, and to the hope that lifts our hearts and minds and spirits to a higher calling. The child Jesus will again heal our hearts, our Church, and our world, all because Mary, that young girl from Nazareth, believed the words that were spoken to her -- that nothing is impossible for God. So let us begin again to live as Jesus shows us, to follow his call to diakonia, sacrificial service, starting with the life of every single child.
"Unto us a child is born, come let us adore!"
DEACON DAN BURNS SERVES AT THE CATHOLIC WEYMOUTH COLLABORATIVE OF ST. JEROME AND IMMACULATE CONCEPTION PARISHES. THIS IS THE CLOSING REFLECTION EXPLORING THE UNIVERSAL CALL TO DIAKONIA FOR THE CHURCH AND ALL DISCIPLES IN CELEBRATION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE RESTORATION OF THE PERMANENT DIACONATE IN THE UNITED STATES.