As my family gathered around the Thanksgiving table this year, we were once again surrounded by the power and presence of love, and the multitude of God’s blessings, none greater than the one given to me by my position at Catholic Relief Services—the opportunity to serve the poor overseas. That so many of you generously join with me in this privileged work is always comforting and energizing. I certainly gave thanks for that.
But this year our Thanksgiving table also felt the presence of the recent tragedies in the world—the violence in Beirut, Paris and then Mali, where the CRS offices are only yards away from the targeted hotel. We were thankful that our staff was safe, but were reminded of the risks that CRS personnel take every day in so many countries to help the poor as the Gospel commands. How can you not be thankful to be allowed to work with such wonderful people?
It is difficult, in the midst of their devotion and dedication, to contemplate the depravity behind the violence of these attacks and the horror of innocents dying as they went about their lives—eating, drinking, enjoying music and conversation. But such evil is an inexplicable reality of our world that can be conquered only by our faith in its antidote: love.
And that is why I eagerly anticipate the coming weeks of Advent and Christmas. There is no other time of year that reminds us so forcefully of the power of love. It is eloquently and eternally expressed by God in giving us his only Son in the miraculous birth we celebrate this month.
The Christmas narrative is not one of great power and majesty—of a king born amid ornate castles and luxurious finery, surrounded by powerful armies. It is, instead, a story of humility and meekness—of a vulnerable young mother and father who could not find anyone to take them in, and who had to stay in a stable on the night their child was born.
They were seeking shelter—like the refugees we serve that are fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq. We’re working with Caritas and other Church partners throughout the Middle East and in parts of Europe to help them. Together we follow Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me … whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
The baby born on Christmas night two millennia ago grew to show us that the power of love is the greatest power the world has ever known. And what God always reminds us, especially in this season, is that this power did not come from bullets or bombs, but from humility, meekness and compassion—and from the caring love that surrounded him in the manger on the cold night of his birth, and emanates from him for the rest of eternity.
So often God speaks to us when we wander into despair. We might not always hear Him, but that is because we are not paying attention. His message is the same one delivered to the world every year on Christmas—that even when things look the bleakest, hope and redemption are always present. It is up to us to find them in this season and in every season.
One place you will find that message is in the many “least” of God’s family we encounter, both next door and far away. We know that—whatever their religion, whatever their nationality—Christ is within each and every one of them. On Christmas, God assures us that treating these least brothers and sisters with love is the path to joy.
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
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