By Fr. Glenn Jones:
This month is certainly one of anticipation, isn’t it? … even more so this year than most. Not only is Christmas just around the corner, but if you (can) keep track of the vaccine news, we see endless articles about priority, accounts/criticisms of various manufacturers and products, distribution infrastructure pressures, shortages, etc. One hopes the “season of peace” will not see every-man-for-himself brawls outside of vaccine providers.
Survival and defense of loved ones, of course, are among the strongest of instincts, and perceived dangers to that survival can spark panic and accompanying violent reaction. But … is it not one of the greatest of virtues and strengths to overcome fear in pursuit of a greater goal, principle or common good? That is essentially what courage is, after all—not the absence of fear, but moving forward in spite of it. These next few months may require even greater such courage if some of the forecasts come to realization.
This time of year—this year in particular—is most beneficial for remembering the need for courage in our human condition. As we commemorate annually the attack on Pearl Harbor, we recall the sacrifices made then and thereafter in World War II as nations—and individual men and women—overcame very natural fear in order to pursue a greater goal. As the saying goes: “All gave some, and some gave all”—self-sacrifice for the good of their fellows and for the world.
I thought of that last week as well with the annual memorial of St. Francis Xavier, whose own sacrifices can hardly fail to awe. He was a Spanish Jesuit missionary who evangelized in Africa, India, New Guinea and Japan for many years in the early 1500s—not long before Franciscan missionaries were plodding up the Rio Grande here in New Mexico. One can imagine the sacrificial selflessness of such missionaries in those days—long, dangerous sea voyages, uncertain future, venturing into unknown lands—simply trusting completely in divine Providence—for the missionaries’ ideal of working for God in pursuing eternal good of peoples among whom they evangelized. There’s much controversy about that in our day, but certainly the missionaries would have been missionaries had that goal not been deeply seated in their minds.
Of course, as we near the Christmas season—a “season of giving”—we remember the birth of Jesus some 2000-ish years ago—the “reason for the season”—divinity “…for a little while was made lower than the angels…” (Hebrews 2:9), to ultimately give Himself totally for humanity, as we will remember in a few months with Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Jesus tells us: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give,” and St. Paul would echo this when he wrote: “What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? (1 Corinthians 4:7) How often do we really remember—and give thanks—that it is God who is the giver of all good, both spiritual and material. We see the mind of God in Jesus’ own expressions and reactions in the Gospels: “At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd,” (Matthew 9:36) … and his inexhaustible compassion for Mankind as He looked down from the cross upon even His tormentors: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
And so, as we traverse this month in which sacrifices and giving are recalled so often, let us manifest the generosity of so many before us, for we, indeed, stand on the shoulders of giants, many who gave all for their fellow man. Our life’s journey is but a moment, and the Good seek to cultivate good in his/her own short season. As Jesus told His disciples: “We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.” (John 9:4) Generosity, humility, ardent labor for the good, self-sacrifice—these are virtues which stand the test of time in any age. So let us honor those who have given before us by carrying on their legacies of goodness and sacrifice for a day … a year … a lifetime.
“What has our arrogance profited us? And what good has our boasted wealth brought us? All those things have vanished like a shadow, and like a rumor that passes by; like a ship that sails through the billowy water, and when it has passed no trace can be found…or as, when a bird flies through the air, no evidence of its passage is found…or as, when an arrow is shot at a target, the air, thus divided, comes together at once, so that no one knows its pathway…But the righteous live forever, and their reward is with the Lord…” (Wisdom 5:8-15)
Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.