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The Josephs at our door in the night of COVID

Julian Paparella

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Detail of Arrival of the Holy Family in Bethlehem by Cornelis Massijs (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Picture the scene. A starry night in the little town of Bethlehem. You are looking for a place to stay the night with your very pregnant wife. (Or better yet, you are the pregnant wife, and you can’t wait for your husband to finally find a place!) You go from door to door, and all you get is radio silence or negative responses. You don’t know what to do. There is no one to turn to. You muster up the courage to try knocking one more time, and you breathe a sigh of relief as the compassionate innkeeper leads you to his stable.
COVID is like that dark night in Bethlehem. God sends us lights in the sky to guide the way till morning. We are the innkeepers. There are so many Josephs. What can we do to open the door?
It is so easy to ignore or simply not see all the needs that surround us. So many people are knocking at our door, most often silently and invisibly. The elderly are knocking. Victims of domestic violence are knocking. The hungry and homeless are knocking. Those suffering with mental health and isolation are knocking. Migrants and refugees like the Holy Family are knocking. People across the planet are knocking. Do we hear them? What can we do to answer?
Pope Francis calls us to be a Church that is like a field hospital in the midst of a battlefield. He wants church doors open to welcome people. At the same time, he wants us to reach people where they’re at. Our local parishes can be powerhouses of solidarity, outreach, and support for those in need in spiritual and material ways. Are the doors of our churches open so that people can come to pray in this time of need? Are our parishes keeping in touch with people, making phone calls or offering socially-distanced visits when possible? Do our parishes offer online opportunities for people’s faith to be nourished in these trying months? What suggestions could you make to your pastor and parish staff, or even your bishop, to try and help our Church to be more creative, adaptable, and resilient, both during and after the pandemic? What ideas, energy, resources, and skills can you contribute in order to support your parish community and its mission at this time?
As we know, being the Church does not simply happen on church property. We are the Body of Christ sent out into the world to be the leaven of the Gospel in the dough of humanity. Now is the time for us to go out of ourselves and be open to finding a new way to serve others. Jesus has something in mind for you, a mission to season your life and the lives of those around you with the flavour of the Good News. As Pope Francis puts it: “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the 'peripheries' in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 20).
In what ways can we respond to the cries of those in need in our workplace, in our neighbourhoods, in our families and groups of friends? Who are marginalized people and groups that we can advocate for, volunteer with, or support financially? How about calling your local food bank, Saint Vincent de Paul Society, charitable organization, men’s or women’s shelter to find out how you could help? What changes can we make to move towards political and economic systems that are more just and human, beginning with our buying habits? It is so tempting to stay in our own comfort zones and not make the effort to be attentive to others and respond to their needs, even in modest and simple ways. We do not need to be superheroes. Humanity already has a Saviour, and it’s not us! At the same time, Jesus uses us as His hands and feet, His eyes and ears. He wants to put His compassion into our hearts so that we can welcome Him in those who knock on our door. So many Josephs are out there. Let us do our part to be welcoming innkeepers.
May Saint Joseph pray for us as we embrace people like him.

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