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Geisel and Liz packaging food for distribution in the El Zaite neighborhood

The people of El Salvador carry the heavy burdens of poverty and injustice — lack of education, job opportunities, clean water and basic sanitation; food insecurity; inadequate housing; widespread violence; the sweeping raids and arrests of the current “state of exception”; and the fear, suffering, and sorrow that come with these conditions.

Jesuit Father Ignatius Ikunza, who worked for social justice in Kenya, said, “Our identity as Christians is based on whom we carry.” His words might make us think about whom we have carried in our lives, who has carried us and whom we might be called to carry.

Dinora and Carlos of El Patronato packaging food

In our community of El Zaite, we see people lifted up and carried all around us — at-risk children by parents; people who are ill by caregivers; victims of violence by devoted advocates; struggling students by dedicated teachers; people in prison by family and committed volunteers; those without enough food by generous neighbors and donors.

And every day we witness innumerable small acts of people carrying others with warm smiles, words of encouragement and kind gestures that help to lighten the load of those in need. It’s not nameless or unknown people who are being carried. It’s our friends, our neighbors, colleagues and family members. It’s us! Each of us has been carried at different times in our lives.

During Advent, Christians carry the hope and promise of Christmas in our hearts. It is the same hope and promise that Mary and Joseph carried on their journey to Bethlehem. They carried a new light for the world with confidence that God’s promises of old would be fulfilled. It is light that darkness cannot overwhelm. It is a light in each one of us — the light of Christ. I carry it, we all carry it.

As we journey toward the celebration of that light coming into the world, we have the opportunity to reflect on our own stories of being carried, to consider if there is someone whom we might carry and lay down before the Lord for help and healing, and to ponder what shining gifts we might offer to Jesus and those in need this Christmas.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. —John 1:5

Bob Cunningham
Working together with his wife, Liz, at Patronato Lidia Coggiola, Bob Cunningham accompanies and supports the education and empowerment of the people in El Zaite, El Salvador, particularly children, adolescents and women.