We are doing something special this year – single bulletin for the holidays! One issue to cover the fourth Sunday of Advent, Christmas, and the Feast of the Holy Family—and crossing into the New Year! I thought it was a good idea and a time saver for the staff who produce the bulletin—seemed like a great thing. And then I figured out I might have to write a column that spoke to the whole period. Hmmmm?
Listening to the Word proclaimed on the second Sunday of Advent, I began to hear the kernel of an idea. The words of the Prophet Isaiah called out: “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.” It is the prophet’s proclamation of being the herald of Good News to a people who are poor, on the margins of life, and looking for hope in their lives. The prophet said, “Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings.”
It was during the first week of Advent, I traveled to our “sister parish” in Beausejour, Haiti. The journey from Port Au Prince to the village area was across a rugged land, a rough country, and across broad valleys. It was a journey in which 11 of our parishioners made space in their busy lives, room for God and room for a people who are poor, on the margins of life and looking for hope in their lives – an experience of the deepest meaning of Advent.
In an area of the country not served by any governmental or sustained charitable organization, our parish provides an annual dental mission offering restorative dental procedures, extraction of diseased teeth, hygiene care, and lessons in brushing and preventative care; as well, a cornucopia of tooth brushes, paste, and floss. These things were the gifts of the professional folks on the trip as well as a collection from the parish Faith Formation program. For the people of Beausejour it was Christmas come early.
If Christmas is that celebration of hope that we are remembered by God who so loved us He sent His only Son, in some small way the dental mission is that offering of hope that the mountain people are remembered and loved. It is that gift of hope, the promise of pain relieved, and restoring a smile, that are signs of the Kingdom being built on earth. Indeed, good news, leading the prophets, each in their own way to proclaim, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is near! Rejoice, I say again, rejoice!”
For our parishioners it is a service of love, an experience of seeing the face of Christ in those we serve, and, as best we can, in serving the poor caring for our own souls by imitating the character of God. It was the best of Christmas gifts; an outpouring of grace throughout our time on the mountain.
It was the sixth dental mission, and each year we see more and more people. For us and for them we experience what the prophet promised: “Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.” We experienced that glory in the faces of the people who walked two to five hours one way; they experienced in knowing they are remembered and they thus have hope. It is in this way, that the bonds of family are built. Beausejour and Sacred Heart, together a Holy Family, making the Kingdom of God just a little more visible in the here and now.
It was a journey from Advent, through Christmas, becoming a Holy Family. 2018 is a New Year. What will your “beau sejour”, your “good journey” hold for you?