It’s amazing how my life has changed in the past year. Last Christmas, I was serving as the pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, Arizona – about three hours north of the Mexican border. This Christmas, I am now serving as the pastor of our Holy Cross parish outside of Monterrey, Mexico, La Parroquia de Nuestra Madre Santisima de La Luz or Our Most Holy Mother of the Light Parish – about three hours south of the U.S. border. It was difficult leaving the people of St. John Vianney after nine years as their pastor, but thanks be to God, I’ve adjusted to life in a new and different world in Mexico.
Before I arrived here, many people expressed concern about my coming to Mexico in a time that has been marked by frequent drug violence, but I was at peace with coming here because I believed that this was God’s will for me and trusted in God’s providence. When I arrived, I was immediately moved by the warmth and the joy of the people as they welcomed me to their parish. I saw no initial signs of violence, although seeing frequent police patrols with officers carrying large automatic weapons in the back of police pickup trucks was a sobering sight for me! Life seemed to continue as normal for our people, who work hard to provide for their families and to get out of poverty.
Not long after I began serving here, several parishioners began to ask me to pray for family members who had been murdered or kidnapped. I also had the difficult task of celebrating some funerals for individuals who had been murdered. Beneath the joy and the warmth that characterize our people, I began seeing anxiety, fear, and a sense of helplessness.Our people clearly need the hope that our God and our faith offer us. The potential for violence touching families, as small as it might be, is a dark cloud that constantly hangs over our people.
As I reflect upon the reality of our people and the anxiety and uncertainty under which they live now here with the drug cartels of Mexico, I think of Mary and Joseph and the people of Israel living in anxiety and uncertainty under the presence of the Roman army in their land. The people of Israel had endured so many difficult times as they waited for centuries for the Messiah to come. Although the people’s lives necessarily continued on, they knew much darkness. They waited in hope for the coming of the Messiah, for the coming of the great light.
Jesus’ birth changed our world forever like nothing else before or since. Jesus taking on our human flesh in the Incarnation is an incredible mystery and the destiny-changing event in world history. Out of love for us, Jesus took on the limits, burdens, and pains that are a part of our lives. He did this to save us from our sins and to give us eternal life. Our faith tells us that all will be well because of this little child.
The people of Mexico need the light of Christ in their lives more than ever this Christmas. We all need Him, no matter which side of the border is our home. We know very clearly that He knows our pain, our fear, our anxiety. Most importantly, He is with us. May His light and His love touch our hearts this Christmas and help us to bring His light and love to a world in great need.