||January 4, 2016 • VOL. 54, NO. 1 • Oakland, CA|
'A home for those in need'
In late November, just after Thanksgiving, a woman in Queens, New York, brought her newborn baby boy, wrapped in a towel, to her local Catholic Church. She waited until no one was around, and placed her baby in the manger scene, which had just been erected — but with no Baby Jesus yet in place. She left her baby in the manger and ran out of the church.
The parish priest, the Rev. Christopher Ryan Heanue, 28, said he could think of no better place to leave a baby. He said that rather than seeing the mother's actions as sad, he found them inspirational. "I think it's beautiful," Father Heanue told the New York Times. "A church is a home for those in need, and she felt, in this manger — a place where Jesus will find his home — she found a home for her child."
Yes, she found a home for her child.
The manger at Bethlehem is the origin of the Catholic Church. It is where it all started, with the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, Redeemer and Savior of the World. The Prince of Peace. God from God. Light from Light. True God from True God.
That mother in Queens, who could not care for her baby, found a home for her child in the Catholic Church.
Mary and Joseph could not find a home for their child. There was no room in the inn. So they resorted to an animal pen in a cave.
Yet from the instant the Christ Child was born, people on earth have responded!
The shepherds heard the voice of the angels and acted upon it immediately. The Magi saw the star and followed it.
Our belief must lead us to act.
Since the baby was discovered in the church in New York multiple parishioners have offered to adopt the child. Their faith had led them to act!
We are now in the season to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World. Like the shepherds and the Magi, you and I worship and adore the Newborn King.
What's our response? If you believe in the divinity of this child, your faith must inspire you to act.
You and I have got to respond.
How? What can I do?
May I make a suggestion? (Actually, two suggestions?)
1. Contribute to our Safe House. Many of the girls selling themselves on our streets or on the Internet have nowhere to go — they have no route of escape. The majority of them are minors. The district attorney of Alameda County, Catholic Charities and our diocese are teaming up to open a Safe House using one of our former convents. Here we will provide safe shelter, medical attention, educational possibilities and, most important, a loving and caring home. This is a ministry no other church or social agency is providing.
2. Co-sponsor a refugee family. Last September I was in Rome and personally heard the Holy Father ask every parish and monastery in Europe to sponsor a refugee family. Wouldn't it be great if we become the first diocese in the USA where every parish co-sponsored a refugee family? I say "co-sponsor" because it's hard for a parish to sponsor a family all by itself, but together we can combine with Catholic Charities to sponsor a number of families. Whatever a parish is able to provide: whether it's furnishing a small apartment, providing clothes, cooking a meal, meeting the family at the airport, providing rent, etc., will be welcomed and be considered "co-sponsorship." Catholic Charities of our diocese already sponsors more than 200 refugees a year in the East Bay, in full cooperation with the U.S. Department of State.
As bishop and leader of the Diocese of Oakland, I invite each and every one of our 84 parishes to co-sponsor a refugee family. Let's do this together in the same spirit in which we would welcome Mary and Joseph as they looked for a place at the inn. If we would welcome the Holy Family to our parish and provide a place where Mary could give birth to the Christ child, shouldn't we do the same in the name of Jesus to those who come to us for help?
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." (Matt 25:35).
I am proud that our Cathedral Parish of Christ the Light is the first to sign up with Catholic Charities to co-sponsor a refugee family.
My brothers and sisters, you and I have received an incomparable gift from God in the birth of Jesus.
Pope Francis said: "The birth of the Messiah constitutes the supreme act of mercy on the part of the Father who loves and cares for us." St. Irenaeus said: "God became man, so that man might become God."
We are celebrating this Christmas in a special Holy Year of Mercy. If you receive Holy Communion, you receive Jesus — who is Mercy Incarnate.
If you receive Communion, you are obliged — obliged — to become a channel of His Mercy to this world.
If that woman in New York had left her baby in one of our churches, I am sure our parishioners would not hesitate to rescue that child and help it. (By the way, the name of the church in New York where the woman left her baby was "The Church of the Holy Child Jesus.")
Let's help the young women trapped on our streets, victims of human trafficking and those refugees displaced from homes and countries because of violence and fear.
Let every parish in the Diocese of Oakland open its arms to receive The Savior ... whether He is in the manger, or in the disguise of the poor, or a victim of trafficking or those evicted from their countries with nowhere safe to go.
Happy and Blessed New Year to you all!
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