This Christmas, as a counterpoint to the destructive forces of misery and terror that we have witnessed these past months, we must not forget that goodness abounds! More than not forgetting, let us be ready to point it out when we see it.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to join a small group of people who help at the Out of the Cold breakfast program in Hamilton. These very good folk agreed in the autumn to get up early every Thursday morning from November through March to make their way to a small kitchen outlet to prepare a hot breakfast for over 120 men and women.
The volunteers are part of about 400 remarkable and generous people who make the program work. They arrived in the quiet early morning hours and were spirited as they took up their duties, each one pitching in to assure that everything was ready for the arrival of the guests.
Steve showed me how to whip up pancake batter and how to cook the pancakes. Not too difficult — we worked together. Two hundred pancakes later, I was asked to help Karen and Frank serve the breakfast: pancakes, sausages, cereal, fruit, juice and the prerequisite coffee or tea. Morning greetings were friendly and sincere; the guests were known and called by name.
As the serving line thinned out, I moved again, now to help with the washing of dishes. It gave me a chance to chat with Rob, who had done everything, including picking me up, to make the experience pleasant for me. The time passed quickly and, even before I left, I knew that I had participated in something good, something beautiful, something sacred!
The same thing happens every day in many communities in our country and around the world. Terrorists may get front page media coverage, but quiet unassuming goodness such as I experienced that morning wins hearts and souls! It won mine, and I know it won the guests. Goodness abounds!
This Christmas we have begun the Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis. Feeding the hungry is one of the seven traditional corporal works of mercy. Many good people feed the hungry every day — often against great odds. When I think of the single unemployed parent worrying about how the three children will be fed that day, I know that my problems are small in comparison.
Recently, I was reminded that before original sin, there was original good. The biblical story of creation reminds us that God considered the created world to be “good.” And the human was “very good”! Original good came before original sin — and in Jesus Christ, the first born, that goodness is restored.
Christmas is a time to remember that in spite of the horrors of evil, good abounds. This Christmas, let us look for the goodness of others, and allow the good in us to shine — so that God’s compassionate mercy might be revealed through simple, everyday kindness. And when we see the good deeds of the other, acknowledge them and affirm them. A simple “thank you” is easy enough, and is actually quite effective.
Thank YOU . . . and Merry Christmas to you, your families and your loved ones!
Crosby is bishop of Hamilton and president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops