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Riches Beyond Measure

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December 2007

’Tis the season . . . for shopping, baking, writing cards, putting up the tree, shopping, making gifts, stringing the lights, decking the halls, shopping, watching school plays, attending concerts, visiting friends and neighbors, and, oh yes, shopping. How in the world did it come to this? Christmas can sometimes mean never having to say you have money.

In our home, we save money watching Christmas movies. We enjoy the nostalgic Christmas Story, grateful that Ralphie doesn’t shoot an eye out with his new Red Ryder B-B rifle. We marvel that muppets seem like real characters from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. And we get our nutty-movie fix from The Santa Clause. It’s that ending scene where a nervous mom tells Santa (a/k/a ex-husband Scott) to be careful with son Charlie as they fly off in a souped-up sleigh to deliver gifts. I cringe every time I hear her unfortunately memorable last line, “Not over the ocean, Scott!” As if li’l Charlie will do any better when he hits the Rockies from 40,000 feet!

But for me, the best movie of all is Frank Capra’s classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I’ve seen it a zillion times; God willing, I’ll see it a zillion more. It’s not just a quaint Christmas tale. It is a moral story that pits good against evil, and unlike many of Hollywood’s current offerings, celebrates the triumph of good. George Bailey is busting at the seams to leave Bedford Falls and strike out on his own. He has great plans, but life keeps getting in the way. He forsakes his own education and a chance to travel so younger brother Harry can attend college and start a career. He surrenders his honeymoon to save the town from the clutches of evil Mr. Potter, a man for whom everything is not enough. George lives as frugally as Potter lives lavishly, yet he seems to find his stride running that shabby old family building and loan.

That is, until he’s unexpectedly hit with a financial problem. He has no answer for a bank examiner looking for missing money. Forced to run from Potter and the sheriff, stinging from a bloody-lipped answer to prayer, and saved from suicide by an angel without wings, George wishes that he had never been born. God grants that wish, and through Capra’s keenly focused lens we re-discover what God wants us to see.

Capra’s gives us a vision of a life not yet lived. We see that George’s life was like a dropped pebble that creates ripples in water. He changed for the good the lives of his neighbors. When he saved his kid brother from drowning in an icy pond, he started a chain of events that saved hundreds of sailors from drowning years later. But Capra gives us more than a good man doing good things, even more than the potential of a single human life. He helps us re-discover the miraculous Hand of God at work, even in the likes of Potter. God allowed Potter to be Potter so that George could be George. God works in us and through all of us, whether we are living our here-and-now or are unborn and waiting the chance. We have been conceived for a reason. It is the ultimate pro-life perspective.

George triumphs but not without help. When George was ready to cash in life, his friends did more than open their pocketbooks. They opened their hearts, and without needing the details of George’s plight. The details were unimportant; George’s life was not. And as the people celebrated the life of George the truly richest man in town they celebrated the richness of life itself.

Capra could have set his masterpiece at any time of year. He chose Christmas, for he gave us more than a moral story. Capra has reminded us of that cold desert night two thousand years ago, of a Babe born in poverty. Turns out that Babe was pretty rich Himself. He purchased our salvation. God could have done it in other ways. Instead, He gave an unwed teenager a chance to say yes to an angel, this one with wings. By doing so, she said yes to Life.

He gives us the same chance. God has allowed the evil of abortion to exist, not because He wants it, but because He desperately wants us to triumph over it. We will triumph by saying yes to every life He has conceived. By doing our best to defend and protect each one. By being available to women who feel deserted and despairing, unloved and unable to be forgiven. By being His people of mercy and justice.

Like George, God has given each of us a wonderful life—and for free. No shopping required! He wants us to realize that all life is awesomely wonderful, that all life is worth celebrating and protecting. May our hearts always be lovingly open to the lives of those whom we will likely never meet, at least not here. For through each human life, God has gifted us with riches beyond measure. May we join together to re-discover its worth.

Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!

Merry Christmas to all!

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.

© 2008 Paul V. Esposito. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is freely granted.

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