“Let what you learned from the beginning remain in you" (1 John 2:24).
In his New Year's message, Pope Francis decried the damage done to the human family last year by "lies." The biggest lie of all is to deny the essential dignity of another human being. Yet as we enter the New Year, the pope spoke for millions of our fellow human beings who have been displaced by wars, poverty and environmental degradation, and are now being abandoned by the rest of the world community, including some of the richest nations. Over 65 million people are now labeled as refugees, in flight, trapped in squalid camps, exploited and abused by traffickers and predators, while they wait in hope to find new homes.
The pope lamented the deliberate distortions about all refugees as potential terrorists, immigrants as dangerous illegals who bring disease and crime, drain national resources and steal jobs. The politics of fear and the rhetoric of hate have been used to caricature the poor, to justify building walls and closing doors to millions of desperate human beings in their time of greatest need.
The season of Christmas and the celebrations of hope for the New Year only accentuate the disparity, the waste of innocent lives and growing indifference that has marked a global shift to self-preservation and exclusion based on race, religion, wealth, education and privilege.
Today's scripture readings proclaim the central truth of the Incarnation. By becoming human, God sanctified the human family and gave it a divine destiny. Every human being shares the image and likeness of God and possesses a divine dignity as a child of God. Any attack on that essential dignity is an affront to God and a denial of the basic unity of the human race.
In his letters, John repeatedly links our treatment of one another to our claim to love God. Anyone who says he loves God while hating his brother or sister is a "liar." Baptism is an irreversible sign that we have crossed over from falsehood to truth, from selfishness to love. We die with Christ in order to rise with him to new life. This is the foundation of our faith. It calls us to resolve in this New Year to find real solidarity with those who are crying out for help.
This message is also paradoxically the Good News, for it reveals the path to life for us. To break the spell of fear, to challenge the lies and push back the darkness is our commitment and God's invitation to each of us today. If this seems impossible, we recall the simple truth, that if every person were to commit to accompanying just one other person with love, the whole world would be filled with love.