Saint Arnaldo Janssen
Christmas is the guarantee of God’s full solidarity with human beings. It is the certainty that the Creator has not abandoned us to our fate, amid so much human fragility. Advent is, therefore, the path of the infinite search for fullness, towards Emmanuel, the God with us! It is a time to quench our thirst for God, thirst for life and justice! God is not on high watching from afar so many inhuman actions that take away the joy and hope of so many people. Because for the God of Jesus of Nazareth, there are no distant and cold looks, but a merciful heart that walks side by side and rejoices with our small victories and protects the small and weak against the arrogance of the powerful.
Living in-depth and in community this waiting time is part of our spiritual commitment as a Christian family. The “Vivat Deus Unus et Trinus in cordibus nostris!” proposed by Arnold Janssen, impels us to keep alive the flame of love that becomes life, so that “the darkness of sin and the night of infidelity” disappear from our midst. Advent is a time of joyful waiting for what is not yet seen, but also for the fermentation of what we want to see.
A wait like the wait of a mother who patiently and lovingly knead the bread, not thinking only of the sustenance of the body, but for the joy of her loved ones, who will taste it. Full of joy, she mixes the yeast with the dough, prepares the oven, and controls the right time so that the yeast produces its effect, and the oven can do its job. The result, for sure, will be successful if the waiting period is accompanied by meticulous and dedicated work. Before she kneaded the bread, there was intense work done by those who planted and harvested the wheat, those who prepared the flour and yeast and so many others until the wheat arrived in the kitchen of this dedicated mother. Only a careful look will make us realize the huge chain of toil and wait for the delicious bread to arrive, which will be enjoyed in a few minutes. Let us live the sweet expectation of the Beloved One, like the steady hands of the mother who kneads the bread, glimpsing the joy of family members who will taste it. Without a few hints of dreams, love, and solidarity we will not be able to welcome the arrival of the One who came, comes and will come “so that everyone has life and life to the full!” As Pedro says, in his second letter 3.9: “He is using patience with us because he does not want anyone to get lost”.
The pandemic time of COVID 19, in a way, has been an extension of our advent, a long wait. How much anguish, how much pain caused by the loss of loved ones, experiences of deep depression, feeling of abandonment, of mutilation. Most of the news focused on dark experiences, on sharing fears and disappointments. The long-awaited vaccine seems to take a long time to arrive.
However, not everything is darkness. The small experiences of solidarity were strengthening our “tired and broken knees” (Is 35, 3-4). Numerous doctors and health professionals fell on the way in order for others to continue their journey. People who had surpassed the biblical age of the “notable fact” (Ps 89, 10), after a period of hospitalization, left the hospitals, “contaminating” the atmosphere with joy and hope. Every loving wait fertilizes the environment with life and fruitful hope!
Let us live God’s stubborn solidarity! The goal is Christmas, our full humanization. Since God became a person, he will not rest until he realizes that the humanity walks in the paths of the divine. Humanizing us is the word that guides the whole life of Jesus’ followers. The Child God calls us to eradicate poverty, to promote the culture of life and peace, and to defend the integrity of creation. It is urgent to take care of the family and the youth so that the future is promising. “Ah if you had kept my commandments! Your peace would be like a river and your justice like the waves of the sea “(Is 48,18). The Divine Word is God’s mercy made flesh. Essentially mercy, God does not remain passive and distant in the face of the possible shipwrecks of human nature.
It has been two years since I returned to live in one of the largest cities in Latin America, São Paulo. Here life runs fast. In these pre-Christmas times, shopping malls are filled with lights, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and artificial snows. They want to turn the discreet and poor arrival of the Child God into the big business of the year, despite the pandemic times.
It’s advent! In the most hidden places of the city, God is arriving in another way. On the outskirts of the center of the city, in one of these condominiums that look like matchboxes, countless people live in crowded conditions and without the basic essentials of life. In one of them live some families from Colombia. They are immigrants fleeing violence and looking for hope in the neighboring country. They have not yet found what they were looking for, but they remain united and support each other. One of them had the dream of finding a good job here and supporting his wife and two children who stayed in their home country. Suddenly he was surprised by severe cancer that paralyzed his body and prevented him from pursuing his dreams. Without anyone, he was welcomed by his countrymen friends. In addition to taking him weekly to the hospital, they take care of him as if he were a family member. Christmas has already arrived!
Let’s talk about a situation in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. A young drug addict, after passing through many recovery homes, runs away again from his home to “enjoy” the drugs for a few days. The mother spends the night without sleeping. For her, it’s always like the first time. She clings to her only strength, prayers. After a night on the streets, consumed by alcohol and drugs, exhausted and without strength, the young man stops in front of a church and sleeps there under the weight of a bad night. It dawns. Another young man passes in front of the church, also coming from one of the “party nights” where he had used drugs all night. A common feeling between the two: tired of this kind of life! One asks the other: “what are you doing here?” “I am waiting for them to open the Church because I want them to take me to a recovery home!”, he said. The other replies: “Let’s go together, I can’t take this burden anymore. And they walk together in search of a recovery home. Halfway through, one of them no longer has the energy and the other carries him on his back. They are both together now in the same home! Christmas has arrived for them!
Saturday morning in one of the city’s bustling squares. Many people live on the streets there. A group of volunteers performs an action called “general bath”. A car equipped with showers parks in the middle of the square. The group of volunteers quickly organizes themselves for the haircut, the distribution of clothes, and meeting the primary needs of this population. At the end of the activities, a large circle is formed in the middle of the square. An Afro-Brazilian religion’s priestess, a Muslim, a Buddhist, Spiritist, and one Catholic priest and some catholic laypersons are present. A prayer arrives in the sky for a more just and fraternal country, for overcoming hatred, prejudice and asking scientists for wisdom to quickly release the vaccine against the pandemic of COVID 19.
In the palaces of today’s Herods, many plots how to sow hate, divide, arm the people, and shamelessly appropriate the goods that should be at the service of all. On the outskirts and streets of the city, among the impoverished, it is already Advent. Emanuel has been discreetly arriving and quietly announcing: “where love reigns, God is there!”* Saint Arnold Janssen was right when he affirmed that “All paths to God pass through the human being!”
Arlindo Pereira Dias, SVD
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