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Christmas Letter 1995
Dear Members of the University Community:
Can we find God in our broken world -- a world bedeviled by war, suffering, hatred, and, worst of all, by religious and ethnic division? How broken and godless our world can seem: from the family and friends who lost loved ones in the Oklahoma City bombing to the world who lost a peace maker in the terrible assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, from minorities who have felt the wrath of religious bigots to children who are neglected.
The words of children can often lift us beyond this brokenness to a vision of God who scatters the darkness of this world. Consider these letters:
Children transcend all human boundaries with innocence and imagination, creation and light, celebration and reverence, goodness and peace -- love! From their innocence we can learn that God is the freshness deep down in things of this world. Children want us to seek the ways of peace. When we discover this peace, God discovers us. When we bring peace to this world, we awaken God's gift of peace that transcends the boundaries of nation and neighbors. The yearning for a loving peace among families and nations, among all races and religions, urges us to set aside differences.
God is with us. Isaiah proclaimed "the Lord will give you a sign. Behold a young woman shall conceive and bear a son and shall name him Immanuel" - God with us. [Is 7] Emmanuel will give us light and peace: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.....His dominion is vast and forever peaceful." [Is 9]
Christ's gift of peace is shalom. Shalom is the serenity that comes from the community's faithfulness and caring for its poor and elderly, for its foreign guests and neighbors, for its widows and children. It's the assurance of justice and good life for all. Shalom is peace of mind and heart, building unity in the Spirit and harmony in the reign of God.
The celebration of Hanukkah is more than recalling the past; it's the liberation of Jewish people to this day - a liberation to worship and live in freedom, in shalom. The celebration of Christmas is more than Christians merely recalling the entrance of the child Jesus into human history; it's renewing our faith, hope and love in that constant awareness of God within us and our world.
Whether we worship in a synagogue, mosque, cathedral, meeting house, in some valley or mountain, with shalom as our guide, we will find the confidence and courage to build a humane and just community for all people of God. Abiding in God's love, lighting our minds with knowledge and truth, overcoming ignorance and bigotry, turning hatred into love, disbelief into faith, and despair into hope, and making peace blossom in our communities, we will charge this broken world with the grandeur of God.
As the Jesuit poet says:
Bringing that "dearest freshness deep down" into things of this world charges life with the grandeur of God. That dearest freshness begins with small gestures of love and gets things in the right place.
My prayer for each of you is for a holy, healthy and happy holiday season and new year.
Paul Locatelli, S.J.