Russell Pollitt SJ The sexual abuse crisis that rocked the Catholic Church worldwide has been one of the most disillusioning things I have had to face as a priest. It...
“The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us” John 1: 14
In the past few weeks we have again witnessed chaos in Parliament. For the second time in as many months riot police have been called in to restore order! Our national infrastructure is crumbling with countrywide power outages the order of the day, as well as water shortages. Potholed roads are further signs of lack of care and maintenance are reasons for increasing anger among communities who complain about lack of service delivery. Even our homes, streets and neighbourhoods are places of continued abuse of women and children, at the very time that the days of activism against this abuse are being observed. Violence, intimidation, insults, fraud in high places seem to have become an acceptable way of behaving and living. We really do need a message of hope!
It was the best of times
It was the worst of times
It was the age of wisdom
It was the age of foolishness
It was the epoch of belief
It was the epoch of incredulity
This was how Charles Dickens described a previous time of severe social and political turmoil. In many ways it correspondence with what many in South Africa are experiencing. We too are filled with discontent, disillusionment, even despair.
But we are not just South African. We are Christians and as such we celebrate the liturgical season of Advent which inspires hope by turning our thoughts to the full meaning of the Mystery of the first coming of Jesus. That coming of Jesus which we celebrate at Christmas is the greatest sign that God has not forgotten or abandoned us in the hopelessness of sin, but by sending his Son was giving us new hope, hope that will never disappoint.
Christmas is the fulfilling of the great truth that Jesus is the true sign, or evidence that as the popular song says: “God does not love us from a distance”. Rather he actually came among us, and in Jesus became one of us.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us or as another translation says “pitched his tent among us”. (Jn. 1: 14). In other words, when the Word became flesh he became a fellow camper with us. That’s why we can confidently say “Jesus is Emmanuel, he is God with us”, and what’s more he will be with us until the end of time.
The Incarnation is not something that happened and is passed. No. It is an ongoing mystery. Jesus came among us to dwell in closeness with us until the end of time. This had to be so, because he did not want to save us “from a distance”. To save someone you have to be there, with them, close to them. In Jesus, God is here with us, close to us. You could say God has taken out a new address, and it proves that his tent is pitched right among us forever.
Christmas is a special reminder that God is present among us. And every year that we celebrate Christmas with great passion and joy, we renew our hope and vision of a new life that takes hold of us from inside, making God’s salvation happen among us.
God’s salvation happens when we begin to improve our human condition by making a place for the person of Jesus in our homes and our life. Soon that improvement will be evident in our behaviour. With him the Word made flesh dwelling among us, we will begin to show clear signs that we are translating his vision, his dream, his hope into action. That vision, dream and hope are the challenge we stretch beyond our own limited vision, our human ideologies, our man made philosophies, past our post modern global agenda.
Accepting God’s salvation will mean stretching beyond these limits by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through which we become the beloved sons and daughters of God. This is the Christmas message of hope which we now share with the Church and with the world of 2014.
Hope is based on a promise, a promise that tells us that sin and power notwithstanding, justice, peace, love, tolerance, harmony, gentleness and graciousness will eventually overcome the darkness. This is our message to the world, God does not watch over us from a distance but his address is our address and he has made “his home” with us and among us. In this time of goodwill let us not be carried away on a wave of consumerism, gluttony, drunkenness and self-absorption but we reach out to others especially the poor, the homeless, the refugees, those suffering with Ebola, HIV/AIDS and show them the face of Jesus in our compassion and generosity.
As we wait in loving expectancy for God to reveal himself again to us this Christmas, let us Act justly, Love tenderly and Walk humbly with our God of Hope.
Our Christmas wish for all of you is that we live our lives fully, love deeply, give totally and continue to be joyful people of hope.