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Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXIII, No. 4
Advent - Christmas 2008

Inside Voices

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

In a time of uncertainty, confusion, unrest, and, yes, fear, words like “hope” and “fear not” may sound hollow. But, if we think about it, the only way the word “hope” has any real meaning is precisely when things seem most hopeless.

We “hope against hope” when things seem most grim — when things around us seem impenetrably dark. And there would be no reason for the reassuring phrase “fear not” if we were not fearful: “Fear not, for you have found favor with God”. “Fear not, for I am with you”. “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy!”

Advent is the season of the Church’s year that is most focused on hope. We hope for peace in a time of war. We hope for love in a world filled with hate. We hope for truth when everything around us seems false. We hope for light and life when we’re surrounded by darkness and death. We hope for security when we are afraid.

Christians know where this hope is to be found — even if we sometimes need a firm reminder. The season of Advent is the Church’s invitation for all of us to hope — truly hope; to seek that which is true, good, beautiful, to work and pray for what is just and right, and to prepare our hearts, our homes, and our world to receive the Eternal Hope that entered the world with the Birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Perhaps recent events, including the economic crisis, continuing war, natural disasters, and the stark moral controversies that surfaced in the recent US presidential election, have been a wake-up call for all of us.

In explaining to His disciples the parable of the seeds, Jesus said that when people are “choked by the cares and pleasures and riches of this life” the truth, the word of God cannot bear fruit (Luke 8:14). We need this assurance, this encouragement, perhaps most when we are “choked” by the things of this life, and are most tempted to withdraw from our obligation to be faithful witnesses of God’s truth. Peter says, “even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is within you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (I Pet 3:14,15).

At the very beginning of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life, he writes:

At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news: “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). The source of this “great joy” is the Birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21). (EV 1)

In our troubled world, this “joyful news” in all its fullness needs to be shouted from the rooftops. In this issue of Voices, we have included the entire Chapter 4 of this great teaching document, in the hope that it will inspire study and reflection among individuals or groups — and a careful re-reading of Evangelium Vitae in its entirety (accessible on our web site: Several of the essays in this issue are related to our obligation to spread this Gospel of Life, and how we must overcome obstacles to this truth with steadfast and patient persistence. We must work — and pray — for change.

It is encouraging that so many of our bishops in the United States have been willing to do this, even when it is “politically incorrect”, and in the face of almost constant criticism in the media for proclaiming this truth. The statement in defense of unborn life released the week after the presidential election is also in this issue, along with our report on this meeting. (Susan Benofy and I attended the meeting.)

A real sign of hope for the future is in our young Catholics — and for the first time, we feature three young writers in this issue. We are pleased with the efforts of these youthful writers, and applaud their parents and teachers, who have so effectively transmitted the faith to a new generation of Christians.

“I came that they may have life”, our Lord told His apostles just before His own suffering and death. “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world”.

For the coming of the Son of God, in time and into this world — for this great gift to all men throughout history — we rejoice greatly — at Christmas and every day!

And we earnestly pray, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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