by Gabino Zavala, Justice and Peace Director
One of my fondest childhood memories of Advent was celebrating the Novena known as Las Posadas that takes place from December 16 to December 24. This is a Mexican Advent tradition commemorating the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of safe lodging (Posada) where Mary could give birth to the baby Jesus. Not finding a place of welcome in the crowded inns of Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary were forced to seek shelter in a nearby stable.
As we celebrated each Posada, a child dressed as an angel would lead the procession with a candle. If the community had statues of the peregrinos (pilgrims) Joseph and Mary on a donkey, they would be carried following the angel. If there were no statues two children would dress as Mary and Joseph. These pilgrims would stop at two homes and ask for Posada (a place at the inn) in song. The reply that there was no room would be sung in response. Finally, in the third home, the pilgrims would be welcomed. The people following the procession would enter with Mary and Joseph and the community would enjoy hot chocolate and Mexican bread while the children broke the piñata.
As Mary and Joseph are turned away and finally find welcome we should consider who is the stranger that we are called to welcome? It may be the refugee, the asylum seeker, or someone of a different color or culture. Could it also be the person with whom we vehemently disagree? We must never forget that immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, those different than us, and those that we vehemently disagree with are human beings; we have a responsibility to care for one another as part of the human family.
We are facing the worst global displacement crisis in history. We are challenged by this reality today in refugee camps in the middle east or in camps where migrants gather in hope at our border. Pope Francis writes in Fratelli Tutti that “global society is not the sum total of different countries, but rather the communion that exists among them” 149. We are all part of the human family, the vulnerable family all over the globe, and the vulnerable family in our local reality. As members of the human family, how can we express love and solidarity with our sisters and brothers in times of crisis?
During this Advent season, as we remember Mary and Joseph searching in hope for a place of welcome, let us ask to keep our hearts open to welcome and embrace the poor and vulnerable, the refugee and the stranger, those who are different than we are and those we disagree with, those in our midst and those in our global community. Who are you going to welcome today?