Henry Isaac is a seventh grader in Santa Ana, El Salvador. My family sponsors him via Unbound, an international nonprofit that bridges cultural gaps between people around the world. The goal is to help “challenge poverty in new and innovative ways.” But amidst a pandemic that knows no class, Henry’s latest update to us about his family reinvigorated my hope in the power of the human spirit. As we recall how the Holy Spirit enveloped Jesus in love at his baptism, this occasion reminds us that the human spirit and the Holy Spirit are one in God. Join me as Henry and I share God’s word.
By the time you read this letter, it will be a new year in the world and in our Church. On the first Sunday of 2021, we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. The things you told me in your last letter reminded me of Mark’s gospel (Mk 1:7-11) in which the Holy Spirit tells Jesus what his Father thinks of him:
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
You told me you’ve been helping your Mom clean and fertilize your corn and bean crops while you are also trying to be a good 7th grade student working online during this Covid pandemic. Being both a good son and a good student mean never giving up—and you have that courage because of the love you receive from your Mom. That’s the same parental love the Holy Spirit passed from God the Father to God the Son at his baptism.
You’ve also told me you are working hard to help your mother, grandmother and your new baby brother, and that when you grow up you would like to be a police officer. That means you want to help ALL people—and that you are filled with love and faith in God. I know you will achieve those goals because of what St. John tells us in his gospel (1 Jn 5:1-9):
“Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.”
Although there are many miles between us, the Holy Spirit unites us through our faith and our letters to each other. The work you do on the crops to keep your family fed also feeds me and my family with hope because your actions do the work of God’s words. The prophet Isaiah told us many centuries ago that God speaks to us through each other (Is 55:1-11):
Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth. My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
The work you’re doing for your family on your farm in Santa Ana, El Salvador is feeding my family and me in Cleveland, Ohio, with hope. As your Unbound sponsor, “with you I am well pleased.”
Happy New Year, Henry!