We Were Not Born 2,000 Years Too Late
The great Catholic activist Dorothy Day wrote of this time of year, “It is no use saying that we are born 2,000 years too late to give room to Christ … Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts.”
Day continued, “But now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers and suburban housewives that he gives; with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter.”
I received this quote from Rev. Michael Scalzi, a Benedictine monk in Pennsylvania who emails his friends a different passage each day with an accompanying prayer.
Day’s words caused me to pause because my husband and I recently took our first airplane trip since the pandemic began and are spending Christmas this year in Italy. Traveling reminds us again and again how much we are dependent on the kindness and grace of others.
I was grateful to the passengers seated near us on the plane for keeping their face masks on except for brief periods to eat meals, and to the flight attendants who continously offered us fresh masks. I was thankful for our Italian friends who drove us to our destination in the middle of the night after we arrived five hours late due to a missed connection.
Grateful too for the strangers in the street who stop when we need directions, or the shop owners who offer us samples of their cold cuts and cheeses, explain how to cook unfamiliar vegetables, and wait patiently for us to count out our Italian coins. Grateful also for the women at Mass who, at Communion time, offer to share their personal-size bottles of hand sanitizer.
My Tibetan meditation teacher in the U.S. often refers to the positive energy we release through random acts of kindness. Despite the unfortunate vitriol in the U.S. surrounding the pandemic— and perhaps because of it — I’m convinced more than ever that these small acts keep the heart of our world beating.
These are the ways we create space for Christ to enter our world, again and again.
Perhaps this week we can all become our own versions of St. Nicholas, doling out small parcels of thoughtfulness, courtesy, patience, and understanding wherever we find ourselves. Can we, as Dorothy Day suggests, speak with the voice of Christ, gaze with his eyes, and walk as he would walk?
As Christmas Day approaches, are we ready to make room for Christ in our hearts so that he is present not only within us, but invited too into the lives of all we will meet?
We can do this. We were not born 2,000 years too late.