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Christmas Letter 1996
Dear Members of the University Community:
The liturgy for the third Sunday of Advent draws from the Prophet Isaiah: "God sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners. To announce a year of favor from the Lord."
The year of favor from the Lord points to important times in human history, two of which we celebrate at this time of year: Hanukkah is the time Jews celebrate their liberation and recall the re-dedication of the Temple. Christmas is the time Christians celebrate God entering human history in the person of Jesus. Both Hanukkah and Christmas, celebrations deeply rooted in faith, remind us of God's love for us and call us to love God and people of all walks of life, cultures, times, races, religions -- not just Jews and Christians.
These are celebrations of peace, but clouded by other realities that bedevil our world: wars, oppression, poverty, homelessness, prejudice and hate. For example, the media is filled with stories recounting ethnic and religious wars like in Rwanda and Bosnia where thousands of citizens are now refugees in their own or neighboring countries; the International Herald Tribune ran an article entitled, The Easy Way to Govern Is to Sacrifice the Poor, describing how members of both political parties designated "savings and cuts aimed at the poverty population, mainly children or indigent adults;" the NY Times reporting a case of two juveniles vandalizing a menorah in a home (the following night as a sign of solidarity all homes on the street and many on the adjoining streets had menorahs burning brightly in their windows).
These reveal a lack of fortitude, together with an absence of love and faith, to make life better for all citizens of our global village. But as people of hope, we must see that "a year of favor from the Lord" will come again and is already here when we bring faith, hope and love to our communities. Isaiah reminds us: "as the earth brings forth its plants, and garden makes its growth springing up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring before all the nations."
Isaiah's blossoms of God's graces do not fall from heaven like rain from clouds, but are brought forth from the earth when by our actions we cooperate with God's power. Gerard Manley Hopkins, the 19th century Jesuit poet, reminds us "the world is charged with the grandeur of God ... there lives the dearest freshness deep down in things." God's garden of justice and peace, light and love will spring up and flourish when we exercise our responsibility for God's world - our world.
My prayer for us is two-fold: as a University community, that we will be women and men who seek knowledge and truth that will overcome ignorance and prejudice and hatred, men and women who seek wisdom that will end injustice and disharmony and self-interest. And, each of us lives the best of our religious faith -- Jewish or Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, all religions -- by building up our communities and making visible God's love throughout our communities.
By small gestures of love, Isaiah's vision will be fulfilled: from lighting a menorah when vandalism occurs, to glad tidings to our family and friends, healing for immigrant families and lonely widows and widowers, releasing the homeless and poor from their imprisonments, giving liberty to all. Then Isaiah's year of favor from the Lord will be fulfilled in our midst by our good works.
I wish each of you a holy, healthy and happy holiday season and new year.
Paul Locatelli, S.J.