Xmas Eve Messages from Jeju Island
Gangjeong Village, Jeju Island
Where will the Infant Jesus be placed when He is born in Gangjeong tomorrow? Between the cracks of cement blocks hardening inside the naval base? In a tiny raft at sea, surrounded by massive battle ships?
It seems that the only appropriate place is in the arms of the faithful who sit every day in plastic chairs in front of the gate, who are repeatedly carried to the side by the police during Mass and who return over and over again to peacefully persist in blocking the entrance to the compound.
No doubt, the Infant’s only swaddling clothes will be the worn and mud crusted vestments of the priests, the raincoats of the peace activists, and the banners with words opposing war making.
Instead of Magi arriving from the East, Martha and I arrived from the U.S. in the West. We did not follow a star, we responded to your blood, your tears, and your cries of grief. We followed the echoes of your courageous voices.
We bring not gold, frankincense and myrrh, rather we bring our solidarity, our support, and our love. We represent many others who oppose war.
One day soon, our hope is that the people who build power structures and develop and use military weaponry will bow to the Angel’s Message of Peace on Earth, Good Will to All.
The birth of Christ brings us forgiveness of sins and the pathway to peace, writes Abbot Gregory Polan in today’s reflection. I sit, before dawn, in this small village on an island and contemplate the huge warships docked at the newly constructed naval base. Perhaps the military men are here for some R&R on shore for Christmas.
Soon we will be at the gate, bowing down 100 times, praying for disarmament of our own selves. We are helpless, like newborn infants at risk for being crushed at any moment by such a massive war machine, a small part represented in this one particular military base. We pray desperately for God’s tender mercies. The world is in a compulsive, ghastly struggle with death, and yet we wait for the birth of the One who comes full of life and light.
Despite imprisoned union leaders charged with sedition, falling rice prices due to trade partnerships, proposed rewritten history textbooks, government labor “reform” bills, water cannon induced comas, ferry boat disasters, an opened naval base, despite all of this, there is hope. There is a groundswell of labor, civic, and farmer’s unrest demanding justice. Groups such as the Korean Catholic Farmers Association, and Korean Confederation of Trade Unions are raising their voices. We hold such painfully bright expectations in our hearts. Come quickly, oh light of salvation, bringing us your eternal joy and comfort. Save us in Your love!