Life First

Lights inspire hope from Thanksgiving to Groundhog Day

By Fr. Don Braukmann / Retired Priest of the Diocese of Crookston

A kindergarten student at St. Philip’s here in Bemidji was walking through the narthex with her mom. The little girl stopped, looked in the church at the life size crucifix over the altar, and her body slumped. She said, “He’s still dead?”

Sadly, in too many situations and for far too many people, it appears to the naked eye, Christ is dead.

The actions of the New York and Virginia legislatures and governors (which I wrote about two issues ago) and their decision that children born alive after an abortion may be left to die is the most horrific sign that Christ, indeed, may still be dead. That is, to the naked eye.

A nominee for the United States District Court in Nebraska, a Knight of Columbus, came under attack from Senator Kamala Harris of California for his membership in the charity. She asked the nominee “Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?” She added that the Knights were an “all-male society” therefore disqualifying the man from consideration for the court.

The attempts being made to silence people of faith makes it appear that Christ may still be dead … that is, to the naked eye.

Our President confuses pro-lifers when he regularly denigrates women, saying about a female Republican candidate for president on national television as our children watched: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not suppose to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” Hope that a leader would have respect for basic human dignity is snuffed out and it can seem Christ is still dead … that is, to the naked eye.

The “Second International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots” was recently held in London. No joke. “Sexbots” are the new rage as producers claim they are lowering disease and helping avoid broken hearts and homes. Need anything more be said? Could it be that Christ has indeed died and not burst through the walls of the tomb? That may be, to the naked eye.

The list of the devil’s outrageous attempts to lure us into his clutches as individuals, as a community, as a nation and as members of humanity go on and on. To the naked eye, Christ is no doubt dead. Evil seems to have stained itself onto every corner of our lives.

But wait a minute … there is more to the story!

Starting at Thanksgiving I could sit in my recliner at the assisted living center here in Bemidji and see Christmas lights glowing in the trees from dusk to dawn. And as too many people chucked their trees onto the boulevard or trash heap the day after Christmas, those lights burned from dusk till dawn all the way to March! The same was true at the hospital just down the street. It was beautiful, and it lifted hearts during this difficult, dark winter.

Those lights, night after night, assured me all is well. In the end, all is well.

A 90-year-old woman named Sally, living in Mahnomen, year after year left her Christmas tree up from Thanksgiving to Groundhog Day! To most people (including me!), that was odd. Today, reflecting on how pitch black the world can seem, I realize how wise that gentle, holy woman was and is. She knew our world was in short supply of joy, hope and peace. In her house, as those who love her know, that is what you got!

The little girl who saw Christ was still dead on the cross walked out of that church hand in hand with her mom. She was loved, and she knew it! In time, she will see how the love of her mother is a mere reflection of God’s inescapable, passionate love for us all.

In time, as she is surrounded by others who gather in that same church around that same cross week after week, she will see Christ is alive in the bread and wine consecrated on the altar of sacrifice and in the people (sinners and saints) who humbly stumble to the altar with her.

Through him, with him and in him, that little girl will, like Sally and those who refused to pull the plug on the trees where I live, proclaim to a darkened world: the wood of Eden has become the wood of the manger; and the wood of the manger has become the wood of the cross; and the wood of the cross has become the wood of the altar where death is defeated once and for all.

We get through the darkness of winter by remembering the first beautiful rays of spring.