“God’s looking is active. The fact that he sees me, that he looks at me, transforms me and the world around me.” Pope Benedict XVI, Homily December 24, 2008.
Christmas 2008 was a true blessing for the John Paul II community of Heart’s Home which chose this year to live this great Mystery in a special way. On December 24th, three families joined us at the Met and followed Paul’s explanations on the thirst for the Incarnation from the Egyptian culture until modern art, but it is as if humanity had forgotten about Christmas. Rothko’s paintings can be compared to icons without faces!
On December 25th, a five-children family, three good friends from Manhattan and two young women who had just heard about us, joined us for the day as well as two of our dear friends from the Bronx. Both of them are blind and it is sometimes hard for them to open up to others instead of remaining closed up in their apartment. This was a little miracle to see them both in our house, happy to be here and to meet new people. After a beautiful mass at St Boniface Oratory church and a quick brunch, we went to visit people we knew were alone on that day: in the Care Center just across the road, in Bishop Mugavero Nursing Home, and in Farragut House. It was a great joy to introduce our dear friends -those we visit weekly- to new friends and to witness on the faces of all how much joy is given to the one who opens up his heart to the other, to the one able to offer his time and his gifts to lighten the other’s burden.
A priest from Nigeria joined us for Christmas dinner. The first time we met he had told us: “In two years you are the first ones to invite me for dinner!” Our friends Angelica, who hardly has any contact with her children and Marlene, a woman in her twenties from the shelter close by, also came. Probably due to drug addiction, Marlene has severe health problems. Sometimes she does not speak at all but she would always look at you and smile. Some other times she would just sit there and sob, unable to stop her tears. She is so desperately in need of a meaning to go on with life! She has a great love for Jesus. At the last minute, Max joined us with two friends. They spent their evening watching what was happening, wondering who were these Catholics capable of joking and being loving!
When looking at every face, one could guess a deep loneliness and at the same time see a sweet glance of hope in their eyes. The miracle of Christmas was happening. A great joy was given to all! The joy to be together, the joy to acknowledge each other’s presence and beauty, the joy of communion despite different languages, religions and backgrounds!
To finish I would like to share a few words about New Year’s Eve when 20 people gathered at Heart’s Home. We started by having a time of thanksgiving altogether. “Thank you for our friendship” was the most heard prayer. Friendship is what enabled us to go through all the trials and to share all the joys of 2008. What else than friendship will enable us to live 2009!