1020: In the birth of Jesus, God becomes one with us Emmanuel - among us and within us.
Day 1020: Saturday, December 31, 2022
In the birth of Jesus, God becomes one with us Emmanuel among us and within us.
Isaiah 9:1-16 | Titus 2:11-14 | Luke 2:1-14
She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged. (Lk 2:7)
I remember a few years ago receiving a phone call from a woman named Emmanuela. She was desperate. Three police cars were at her tiny barrio home with a warrant to arrest her for welfare fraud. Her grandchildren watched as police handcuffed, humiliated, and abruptly hauled her away (as if she were a dangerous felon) the only stable person in their lives. I told her I would do what I could. I waited for hours until I could post bond, and at four in the morning, they finally released her from jail.
Emmanuela and I had coffee on Frio Street and through her tears of embarrassment, she confessed her sin. She didn’t report what she earned from cleaning offices because she was afraid that she would no longer get the ninety dollars in aid and food stamps she needed to raise her three grandchildren. She certainly didn’t want to steal from anyone, but the welfare assistance just wasn’t enough to make ends meet. She now had to pay back $3,000, a small fortune, to clear the matter up and avoid deportation.
You see, Emmanuela is not a citizen of this country. As I held her hands, weathered by age and hard work, I could feel tense desperation eating away at her.
I met Emmanuela again recently. This time she prayed with me at a Mass at a mutual friend’s house. Her friend gets around in a wheelchair. My friend shared his painful story with me. As he was escaping the poverty and violence of his homeland, he had a terrible accident. He leapt off the train he was hiding in to avoid being caught by the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service), but his feet got caught in the rails and were severed. He lay for hours bleeding before anyone found him.
He is depressed and very ashamed of being seen in a wheelchair. I prayed and wished I could do something. He smiled at me during the sign of peace as he shook my hand and said, “Paz está contigo, hermano.”
Peace is with me? His blessing unsettles me still. I struggle to make sense of suffering, to believe the impossible, to love even in the face of so much hatred. I reach out to grasp the gift of peace. However, it is an elusive gift that gives no easy answers. It is a peace that is not free of struggle and conflict. It is a gift that at times is more a burden, and yet, it is still a gift.
Through the mystery of the Incarnation, God is alive and in our midst. We are not left alone to fend for ourselves. God’s gift of presence in our world, however broken and disguised, gives us the courage and power to hope. This hope opens our eyes beyond what is obvious and gives us vision. The gift of peace is the gift of being able to see how things really are and how they can be.
I see Emmanuel constantly, disrupting my life with his gift of peace. Mostly, I look the other way. But there are times when I just cannot resist his invitation to welcome him … to invite him in and eat with him. There are times when I am at peace.
On this day, the last day of 2022 where is Emmanuel? Where does Emmanuel go when there is no room? How do you respond when you see Emmanuel?
The reflection is from Arturo Chavez from the 2006 Advent reflection booklet,
Awakening the Prophet Within: Reflections for Advent 2006.