If we want a world with less hostility, let us share our joy

December 15, 2023

By DAMOND BOATWRIGHT 2023-2024 Chairperson CHA Board of Trustees President and CEO Hospital Sisters Health System

As a Catholic who feels truly blessed to be a servant leader in a Catholic health ministry, and humbled to serve as your CHA board chair, I want to sincerely extend a Merry Christmas to you all. I cannot think of two more beautiful words to say, to hear and to feel in their purest sense, particularly right now.

Although what we Christians refer to as Advent season is meant to be a celebratory time with reflections on hope, peace, love and joy, it is difficult to feel cheerful or to have peace of mind with the tragedies taking place around the world. The wars in Ukraine and in Gaza are disturbing to see, especially when so many other war-torn countries continue to suffer loss of life, civil unrest and poverty long after their conflicts ended. Here in the United States, senseless violence has invaded our schools, our churches, our hospitals and many other places once considered safe spaces. No, it certainly does not seem like a time to be merry. Yet, that is precisely why I want to extend a message of Merry Christmas.

Why? Well, I hope my feelings can be partially explained from the Gospel of Luke:

Mary gave birth to Jesus and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:7-12)

For me, the very essence of hope and love can be captured in these passages. For me, that is the essence of Christmas. And, for me, celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is more than a holiday when we decorate our houses and trees, or are extra kind and compassionate for one or two weeks (while we also make Amazon investors very happy). Christmas is an opportunity to pause and embrace the universally accepted values of love, compassion, respect and joy — role modeled by Jesus throughout his life on Earth.

As I get older and more reflective about my life and the choices I have made, I am personally reminded every Advent season leading to Christmas how Catholicism has elevated my life! I am sincerely humbled and honored to be in this position today, abundantly blessed by dear friends, mentors, colleagues, priests and sisters who provided me the right encouragement and admonishment at the right time.

Equally, I am praying for each of you to have the right people in your life each time you need them most. I am praying this year for you to have someone who sees the good and positive in you that God sees and created. No matter the difficulty or challenge in front of us, keep believing in God and believing that tomorrow will get better. I believe in Catholicism and religion because it has the power to heal, to inspire, to encourage and to help change lives, when practiced appropriately and authentically.

Regardless of your religious faith, political party or skepticism about the world at this moment, I challenge all of us to, in words attributed to Gandhi, "be the change we want to see in the world." If we want the world to have more joy and less hostility, let us be merry and share our joy with all our brothers and sisters.

My final thought is to encourage you to share what I consider the greatest gift everyone should give and receive — forgiveness.

Please take a moment and join me in this prayer.

Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee

Blessed are thou amongst women

Blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus

Holy Mother, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death



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