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That miraculous night

What is the Good News?

One day, I was asked, “Father, if we know that we will soon die, how can we continue to live with hope?”

When I first answered, I gave a reply that aimed to just make them feel better, but later when I had more time to reflect, I started to have questions about that question.

On my desk, there were two newly published books that I had just received from Salesian Sisters in Thailand. Both were works of translation by Sister Rapipun Charoenrat. While Sister Rapipun is now with our Lord, her work is still “loud and clear” in my mind, especially the section about the Holy Father telling us to “Be the joy.”

Then while I was drafting this text, I received a link about a television series called The Chosen that I have never watched before. The series tells the life of Jesus and the particular episode that was shared with me – Christmas with The Chosen: The Messengers – tells the story of the birth of Christ through the eyes of Mary and Joseph. Strikingly, the episode is non-linear and tells the story of the nativity together with scenes also depicting Jesus’ death.

The episode begins with the difficulties faced by Mary and Joseph on their way to Nazareth when Mary is at the very late stage of her pregnancy. The story shows Mary meeting some of those who would later become disciples of Jesus, meeting Mary Magdalene, and the various challenges faced by Mary herself, her faith, and when she met Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist.

Of course, drama is drama. The imagination of the scriptwriters and director may not align with the truth of what really happened; the dialogues were definitely not in the bible…

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But in the end, who knows for sure? And who knows which is better between something that makes us understand our faith more deeply versus something that focuses on what is accurate and what is not?

A scene that made an impression on me is when Joseph spoke with Mary about similar challenges that they faced before taking on the mission of being the father and mother of Christ.

It was about the words of the angel Gabriel and I believe Joseph was not just making idle conversations here. It was to say that the angel already told us, already warned us, but do you remember what the angel first said to us?

“Do not be afraid.”

Before everything else, the angel told them, do not be afraid.

So, when I was asked by my student, “Father, if we know that we will soon die, how can we continue to live with hope?”, my incomplete reply to them was,

“Your hope may be shorter, but do not lose hope.”

Today, I would like to add for them, “and do whatever you can to be the joy among the suffering.”

I realize these words may not make things better for them, but I want them to keep the greetings of the angel Gabriel in mind as they cross the milestones in their lives. “Do not be afraid.”

When we are faced with a similar terminal challenge, we may not at this stage be able to expect much more from our own life, but we can be the hope of those around us by how we choose to live, to be the hope among the challenges that we overcome. Our stories, while they may not be recorded in a book or a movie, our hope – our continued hope – can be the light in the darkness that leads the way for others to follow.

The Good News then is… even if it looks like there is no hope, we continue to hope. I believe that is the Good News of when a man called Joseph and a woman called Mary overcame their fears and seemingly unsurmountable challenges, and continued to hope on that most miraculous of nights.

Fr. Joseph Anucha Chaiyadej is the Director of the Catholic Social Communications of Thailand. He is also an accomplished songwriter and co-wrote the official theme song for Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit to Thailand in 2019.

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