Another year, another Haitian Christmas, and another Haitian surprise. As usual this time of year, Mission Youth is preparing for its “Bring Christmas to Haiti” mission trip. As chaplain to this Regnum Christi apostolate, I’ve been working for a week in Port-au-Prince, getting all the details ready for the trip. Amidst my busy preparations and distractions, Jesus quietly surprised me yesterday.
We all joyfully anticipate the coming of the Christ Child. As a child, I remember the anxious days leading up to Christmas. We had our Advent calendars that marked the steady progress through Advent; a progress that, for little children, never goes fast enough! This childhood experience that we all have is actually something Jesus experiences as well. And I’ll tell you why.
When I arrived to Haiti a few days ago, I headed over to visit the orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity. As usual, the sight of about 60 little babies in cribs all needing medical treatment was heart wrenching.
The sister in charge of the orphanage is a beautiful soul, quiet and contemplative, but nonetheless a hard worker. As I greeted her, she quickly fetched a bottle of holy water and asked me to baptize some of the children. They weren’t expected to survive. In these extreme situations, the baptisms are very simple. The rite is stripped down to the bare minimum: the water poured three times over their little heads. Many of the children have no parents, so I pull in some of the volunteer missionaries, just kids in college, to be on-the-spot Godparents.
I normally add a name to each of the children, picking one of my favorite saints to act as an intercessor for them. We had three baptisms, three new children of God. One little girl became Tianna Faustina, another John Joseph and the last simply Therese, as her first name was illegible on her wrist band.
I had to leave the orphanage immediately for some other work and I only came back the next day to check on the children. Unfortunately, John Joseph had passed away as soon as I walked out the door.
This happens very frequently here. After a baptism or the anointing of the sick, the child or adult passes away. In many cases, I am sure that Jesus was simply waiting for the priest to arrive and perform the sacrament before taking them in his arms to Heaven.
I walked home from the orphanage pondering this thought, that Jesus had been waiting for me to come. I realized Jesus had been at the bedside of John Joseph for days, watching him suffer in pain from tuberculosis, waiting for the moment when he could take him home. This was truly an anxious waiting for Jesus.
Jesus knew that I would unknowingly step into the orphanage on that particular day, so he waited. One of the deepest burning desires in the heart of Christ is to bring us to the Father. Jesus longed to bring John Joseph home, but Jesus had to wait! Like children awaiting Christmas with joyful anticipation, Jesus was awaiting the moment to take John Joseph in his arms.
You see, Jesus comes to us at Christmas not because he has to, or because he was simply sent by the Father, but rather because he longs to bring us home to the Father’s house. He yearns for that more than we do. He wants our love more than we understand.
Once the sacrament of baptism was finished, Jesus joyfully took the spirit of Joseph in his arms and brought him into Heaven, or should I say, into the arms of Jesus which is Heaven itself!
What a mystery this is: the priesthood, a sacrament, a new child of God. And the reason behind all of it: the great mystery of the Anxious Savior, eagerly awaiting this moment, longing for his “hour” to come!
So many things in life become unimportant when we understand that Jesus is waiting for us with joy. Our desire for vacations, new cars and toys, houses, promotions, and success will fade away with one look at eternity. The petty desires of our hearts never fill us. Only Divine Love can.
So look for Jesus’ coming this Christmas into your heart, and marvel at this simple truth: Jesus was yearning to come and was anxiously counting down the days until he could come dwell there!