As Charles' caretaker and a vocal abolitionist, Henry had not merely hoped that right would be prevail; he labored on its behalf. He found the courage to stand in the space between what should be and what is. Charles would later recover. The Union won the Civil War, and slavery was abolished.
In a recent homily, Pope Francis spoke of "The danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives." He contrasted those who "find their security in themselves and in material things" and those who are full of love, charity, "endurance and perseverance, able to face difficulties, trials and failures with serenity and hope in the Lord ... gentle, capable of understanding and mercy."
The key to reconciling Christmas hope and the reality of pain is not to ignore suffering or yield to a thousand shiny distractions. We must embrace those who are hurting, comfort the widowed, the sick and the dying, befriend the lonely, and feed the hungry. Faith and hope should motivate us to action. Poor shepherds who first heard the words, "peace on earth, good-will to men" some 2,000 years ago, did not go back to sleep but turned their feet toward Bethlehem.
It is only through the pouring out of oneself for others rather than the pouring into oneself of complacency that we can reconcile the cheer of the season to the hardships of life.
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