World AIDS Day – December 1, 2005

Advent calls us to a renewed hope in God who keeps his promises.

During these days and weeks we prepare to celebrate that promised fulfilled in the Birth of the Messiah. God keeps his word – as it were – by giving it to the world.

His word is a word of peace; his word is a word of justice, a word of mercy, a word of healing. His word is Jesus.

Today, the Church wishes to express her solidarity with the world of those who have been affected or infected by the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. This year’s theme drives home a point of which all of here are keenly aware: “If it infects one of us…, it affects all of us”.

In my Pastoral Letter I just released this week, Starting Afresh from Christ: Advent 2005, I quote the servant of God, Pope John Paul II, who said:

“How can we exclude anyone from our care? Rather we must recognize Christ in the poorest and the most marginalized those whom the Eucharist – which is communion in the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us – commits us to serve. As the parable of the rich man, who will remain forever without a name, and the poor man called Lazarus clearly shows, ‘in the stark contrast between the insensitive rich man and the poor in need of everything, God is on the latter’s side.’ We too must be on this same side.”

Solidarity calls us to seek the face of Christ in the poor and the marginalized. Solidarity calls us to seek his face among those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. This is truly a pandemic affecting the entire world. Today there are an estimated 40 million people world-wide living with HIV/AIDS – 37 million of them are adults and some 2.5 million are children younger than 15 years of age. Especially hard hit are sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific, as well as communities of color in the United States and the Caribbean. Here in the US perhaps as many as one million people are living with HIV: half of them in the African American community – and another 20% of them Hispanics.

With these numbers of infected people, no one is unaffected. “If it infects one of us…; it affects all of us.”

Given the demographics of this pandemic, we can see that HIV/AIDS primarily affects people who are most vulnerable – due to discrimination, loneliness, poverty. In this advent season, which speaks to us of waiting, waiting for the Lord who comes, we must as communities of faith respond to the “waiting” for care and compassion that face so many people today. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict has also recently appealed for solidarity with those living with and otherwise affected by HIV/AIDS. This Mass which has been celebrated here at Good Shepherd for several years is one concrete way we have responded to that appeal. But it certainly cannot be the only way.

El lema de este día Mundial del Sida es: si le infecta a uno de nosotros…; nos afecta a todos.” La pandemia del SIDA afecta principalmente a personas vulnerables a causa de la discriminación, la soledad y por sentirse privados de recursos y de oportunidades. La solidaridad, nuestra convicción que todos somos hermanos y por lo tantos responsables los unos por los otros, nos reta a responder con compasión a todos los infectados como a los afectados también. En este tiempo de Adviento, esperamos la venida del Señor. Que vivamos el verdadero espíritu de Adviento al atender a los que esperan de nosotros comprensión y respeto.

The Catholic Church has sought to serve those affected by HIV/AIDS – and has done so in many ways, especially through the Church’s network of health care providers. In Africa, in South America and the Caribbean, the Catholic Church is often the major player in providing medical assistance, shelter, and pastoral care to people living with HIV or left orphaned by the ravages of this disease. This is true also in the U.S.; and, we Catholics in the U.S. support the efforts of the Church worldwide in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and in ministering to those living with it through programs sponsored by our own Catholic Relief Services. But since, “If it infects one of us…; it affects all of us.” We still have much more to do.

Education continues to be the only effective “vaccine” to combat denial, ignorance and prejudice which places all people at risk. And the most effective education is education which respects the truth about man, his dignity and his eternal vocation. For this reason, while the Church is engaged in giving medical care, and in educating about the risks factors that expose one to this disease, she also must do so in a way which is coherent with the gospel which she is to proclaim fearlessly in season and out of season. To fail to educate in a way coherent with the gospel, not to witness to the truth about man and to demands that truth place on us would be “to build on sand” and not a solid foundation.

La educación continua siendo la única “vacuna” eficaz para combatir la ignorancia, el rechazo y el prejuicio que pone a todas las personas en riesgo. La Iglesia Católica mundialmente ha respondido a los muchos enfermos a través de su red de asistencia médica. Y la Iglesia esta comprometido a continuar sus esfuerzos en esta área y al mismo tiempo esta comprometido a educar las personas para que en el futuro haya menos personas infectadas. Y la Iglesia hace esto con confianza que una educación basada en la verdad sobre la persona humana es la mejor para combatir esta pandemia del SIDA.

Today, on this World AIDS Day, during this first week of Advent, a time of anticipation and of hope, we pray in faith and hope that one day we will see the end of this pandemic.

We pray for our families, we pray for our friends, we pray for our neighbors, conscious that as long as “it infects one of us…; it affects all of us.” May this season of joyful expectation of the coming of our Lord inspired in all of us, the infected and the affected, renewed hope for a cure, renewed commitment to the care of one another, and continued solidarity with those who because of this disease feel especially alone or abandoned.

God keeps his promises. He has given us his Word. To those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, God has shown that he is on their side. May we be too.