December 8, 2017

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

What is your ‘joy quotient’ this Christmas season?

David BethuramWith Christmas a little more than two weeks away, both my spiritual mooring and seasonal sentiment are strong and buoyant. Family, health, work that brings fulfillment, money enough to buy gifts for others—I’m heading into the home stretch toward Christmas with a contented smile etched on my heart.

But I have a young friend who is undergoing delicate surgery this week. If it is not successful, her career in medicine could be over. I know a young family with a 3-year-old child who had been celebrating recent word of another baby on the way; the mother was found to have an aggressive malignancy last week. For several others whose names I call in prayer during this time of togetherness, it is the first Christmas without a dear loved one who died during the past year.

So maybe not everyone’s “joy quotient” is quite as high as mine at the two-week-and-counting mark of Christmas.

The programs of Catholic Charities often come across individuals whose “joy quotient” is low.

People like Jennifer and Steve, who were ready to start a new life after Steve left the military. When work did not come as quickly as expected, the family exhausted their funds and found themselves living in their car. Catholic Charities provided a place of refuge where the family could access the resources they needed to get back on their feet.

People like Sara, who came to Catholic Charities to escape a domestic violence situation and has been homeless for five years.

People like Jesse who has multiple sclerosis (MS). He insists, “I am not MS. I have MS, but I’m way more than that.” He and his family come to Catholic Charites for a warm meal and other necessities to help make ends meet.

And how are things with you?

The late Father Henri Nouwen wrote in his journal about a Christmas he was experiencing. In his touching The Road to Daybreak, he writes:

“Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to something beyond all emotions and feelings. Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to a hope based on God’s initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel.” But sometimes, he wrote, during the Christmas season “things never look just right or feel just right.” It is important to remember “Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine … it is into this broken world that a child is born who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior.”

Charity is just that—saying yes to hope and believing that salvation is ours through God. Many others walk in the doors of Catholic Charities with needs similar to Steve and Jennifer, Sara and Jesse and want to experience hope. Hope so they can meet the challenges they’re facing. To know that they are not alone, God is with them even when things don’t feel “just right.” That face of God is often a staff member or volunteer of Catholic Charities.

Even if everything isn’t “just right” for you as Christmas approaches, trust God and know that this holy season affirms something larger than sentiment. It says that God is with you in every situation to supply the grace you need.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at

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