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Saturday, December 3, 2016
Philippines: Fr Shay calls for the renewal of Christmas
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 Christmas and all it represents and stands for has to be redeemed. With the turning away of the western world from Christ and all he lived and died for, the spiritual meaning and value of Christmas has been lost to commercialism. Now children value more what they find in holiday socks than what they see in the Christmas manger, if they ever see one. They admire the twinkling lights more than understand the family that brought change and challenge to the world. A challenge to renew all humankind, bring dignity and equality to all, an end to hunger and disease, a world built on justice and truth. The festival that once celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, now celebrates the sum of all our possessions. Many people wrongly measure themselves by what they own, possess and control rather than measuring themselves by their commitment and action in doing good for others. Christmas has become the worship of prancing reindeers and an obese man with a beard rather than the heroic self-sacrificing Jesus of Nazareth and all he stands for. We need to get back to basics. Jesus brought into the world a whole new way of viewing the purpose and meaning of human life. It is a challenge for us to choose to serve others, to forget self and worldly ambition, throw aside the perverting desire for wealth, power, riches and to live with simplicity, compassion and care for those in dire need and not do it for a reward in this life or the next. Jesus called for the world to turn from oppressing and exploiting the poor and the weak and to do good, oppose evil ambitions, war, violence and the violation of people's rights. Christmas is a time to listen and respond to that call. Although traditional Christian practice has waned in the western world and the great cathedrals and churches stand empty, the heroic values that Jesus taught and practiced continue to influence society, and are reflected in the lives of the good people of all religions that serve the poor and the downtrodden. Christmas has not been conquered, people just need to know and reflect on the words and action of Jesus Christ and understand His mission to be inspired. It's not a thing of the past. It's salvation for the poor and the oppressed in Chad, Sudan, The Congo, Bangladesh, the Philippines and for many millions of people around the world that cry and hunger for justice and peace, food and freedom. There are heroic efforts being made by volunteers, relief workers, missionaries and all who serve, sacrifice and risk their lives to save and help others. Yes, evil abounds but virtue does also, we just have to know where it is and how to see and imitate it. Christmas is about children above all. Starting with Jesus in the manger. There too, we see the parents, Mary and Joseph, peasants, poor and powerless. Yet the child who would challenge corruption, side with the poor and redeem the world, learned it from a mother of whom it was written that she would bring down the mighty from their thrones and lift up the downtrodden. In that humble birthing place, all human rights and especially women and mothers were exalted to their rightful places in the world. Only to be ignored for 2000 years thereafter. The impoverished parents are the outcasts, the represent the asylum seekers, the migrants, the poor, the homeless, jobless and indigenous people. If Jesus and his parents stood at the immigration gates of the wealthy nations today, would they find asylum, a welcome, a safe refuge or a concentration camp and misery? When we see little kids behind bars, African mothers with starving babies in refugee camps, it becomes clear who are in need of redemption - those who pout them there and ignore their plight. We know that we have to embrace the meaning of Christmas as never before and get our life's priorities in order, putting people before parties, justice before jingles, right before wrong. We can be renewed this Christmas and make our community a better place for women and children. Fr Shay is a Columban parish priest working in the Philippines. He also runs the Preda project which helps to rehabilitate street children. for For more information see: http://www.preda.org
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