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December Article for The Rhode Island Catholic


“Good people are always very quiet. They appear when you need them.”

These words were spoken by a man from Staten Island who was standing within the shambles of what had been his home. Only the barest of framework remained. He was speaking of how generous and helpful people had been to him from the time of his heroic escape ahead of a ten foot high wall of water.

The day of the storm he was gazing out at the New York Harbor near the Verrazano Bridge where he lived. From the front where he was standing, the water was nowhere near his house. Suddenly he heard a noise and turned around to look at the back of his house and saw a wall of water coming at him from the other side. The flood waters from another beach had swirled and were quickly flooding everything in sight. He rushed his family, including his 92 year old mother, into his SUV and tried to escape.

He drove on the median of the road to get more traction. The road was steep and led away from the flood. With wheels barely functioning he kept making slow progress up the hill. He saw a group of people waving and jumping up and down at the top of the hill. When he finally made it to high safe ground, they surrounded him and his family with hugs and tears. They had been cheering him on as he struggled with wet, slick driving. And they had been praying. He said they were his angels. From that day there have been many other angles in his life as he, along with his neighbors, tries to rebuild and survive a horrific storm. He keeps talking of how many good people are around to help.

What has this to do with Christmas? Everything. Angels were sent to the fields of Bethlehem to proclaim the birth of Jesus. A star led strangers into the land of David to worship a newborn king. Jesus Christ was born and he was both God and man. He did more good than any other person who ever walked this earth. Aside from a few miracle stories, acts of kindness and the manner of his death, we know very little of Jesus' life. The gospels are brief in the details. "Good people are always very quiet. They appear when you need them." The greatest need of all time and eternity was for the redemption of us and all creation.

Jesus was born in an obscure place among an oppressed people at a time when communication beyond twenty miles was exceedingly difficult. Jesus was of no account to the historians and powerful politicians of his time, except as a threat to a handful of religious leaders. He came when we needed him and he walked quietly among us.

Nothing has changed since that day. Jesus still walks quietly among us in his own presence and in ours. The story of a birth in Bethlehem of a very good man continues in us or it does not continue at all. More than half the world has never heard of Jesus. Imagine that so many still await the good news. Internet, i-phones, live-streaming, SKYPE or any other form of the mass communication tools at our fingertips cannot proclaim the person of Jesus. Only a person who believes can do that. His life is not a new report to be filed but a relationship to be shared. The world needs his kindness and love, his peace and nonviolence, his healing and forgiveness.

As the strangers on the top of the hill overlooking a flooded neighborhood in Staten Island, we are called to cheer each other through life and to reach out our hands to lift up those in distress. It is the call of a quiet man and a gentle God born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. We believe and we celebrate.

Merry Christmas!

Article originally published in The Rhode Island Catholic.



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