Christmas – The Feast Day for Atheists

John Paul II wrote that ‘Christmas is the feast day of man.’

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

There is a young atheist who is following my blog; I’ve been to his blog a few times, and read some interesting comments by him and his readers about why they don’t believe in god/s. The contributors are very intelligent, and the blogger is very encouraging to his peers, as they articulate their beliefs.

Well, they have all been wishing each other ‘Merry Christmas’, which at first, seemed out of place. Christmas is obviously the Christian feast par excellence. Its message is so accessible to people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds, including, it would seem, to atheists.

I was tempted to suggest that it was time for the atheists to make a stand and boycott Christmas. They could ‘fast’ from celebrating the day with their families, and ‘abstain’ from buying and receiving presents. I was going to suggest that they make a sacrifice in the name of their beliefs, as Christians have to do in some way, every day of their lives. For the atheist, Christmas could become a joyful day of rejecting Christianity.

But, reading John Paul put an end to that.

One of the billions of human beings who have been born and will be born on earth…
And at the same time, one, unique and irrepeatable.
If we celebrate the birth of Jesus so solemnly, we do it so as to testify that every human is someone, unique and irrepeatable…

Through Him and through His eyes, man is always unique and irrepeatable; someone eternally thought and eternally preselected; someone called and denominated with his own name…

This is for you, Larry – I am glad you enjoy Christmas. I hope you appreciate it and celebrate it every year, if not every day. And I hope that one day you know that the happiness you feel comes from the God you don’t believe in.

Ecumenism – God’s desire for unity among Christians

St. John the evangelist

Today is the Feast of St. John the Evangelist.

John referred to himself as ‘the one whom Jesus loved’, and it was St. John who gives us such great insight into the heart of Jesus, through his gospel, and especially through his account of Our Lord’s discourse during the Last Supper.

In Chapter 17 of St. John’s gospel, he records Jesus’ prayer for his church, which is very appropriate at this time of year, when we talk so much about peace and brotherhood. The entire chapter focuses on Jesus’ request to the Father that ‘all should be one’, which will be a sign to the world that Jesus is truly the Son of God, and His message is to be received because of that unity.

“…The glory which you have given me I have given to them,
that they may be one even as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may become perfectly one,
so that the world may know that you have sent me
and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23)

This says so much to us about Christian unity.

Jesus desires our unity, our becoming one, not only as a father desires that his children are kind to one another, and respect one another, but because this unity will be a sign to all unbelievers that Christianity is true, that God is true, that Scripture is indeed a true record of both God’s revelation of Himself to us and of the historical life of the Man-God, Jesus Christ.

This passage elevates our search for Christian unity from merely being a desire which is close to the hearts of many Christians, simply because it is close to God’s heart, to what must become an incessant search and a driving force in our lives – even if only in our prayer-lives. God desires our unity, but also demands and requires it – He gives Christian unity as a pre-requisite for the conversion of the entire world.

Christian unity is not something that is to be easily found.

The obstacles to unity are very great, on a personal level, and on a formal level.

Perhaps this quote from Isaiah could be seen as prophecy, or a promise that we will one day be united:

“Therefore says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the House of Jacob:
‘Jacob shall no more be ashamed,
no more shall his face grow pale.
For when he sees his children,
the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name;
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,
and those who murmur will accept instruction.” (Isaiah 29: 22-24)

And it is St. John to whom we look for the antidote to disunity: we must become like the Apostle of Love and be known for our great love for one another.

We must focus on what we have in common – if we focus on the obstacles, then we will lose heart, because the obstacles are too great.

God has assured us that He Himself will open our eyes and ears and create unity, so that we will sanctify His name in unison.

In the meantime, our task is to love one another ‘in humility.’

Last Supper

Home Essentials – Peace

Today’s post is about uncertainty.

11155064-illustration-of-mary-on-donkey--joseph-and-jesus-walking-in-desert

I’m sure that, at one time or another, almost everyone has contemplated the thought of Mary’s uncertainty, as she travelled to Bethlehem on that first Christmas, two thousand years ago.

She was expecting her first child, a poor young woman with no resources, except her faithful husband and faithful God. Many of us have wondered what it would be like to arrive in an unfamiliar town and have nowhere to stay, and then to actually go into labour that night, with no midwife or doctor, no clean bed, and most of our baby’s requirements left at home. (Mary had swaddling clothes, so maybe that is a little like us being able to grab some disposables from the 7-11.)

But, the truth is, that we all have very uncertain lives. We literally don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We have no idea when we will be called to leave this world. We can ‘read the signs of the times’ and get a feel for events moving into place around us, but as for the exact circumstances of tomorrow, or even later today, or even five minutes’ time, well, who knows?

God does, of course.

The Bible is filled with stories, amazing stories, of the uncertainty of men and women and the faithfulness of their God.

The Apostles were no strangers to uncertainty, even though they lived with Jesus, day in and day out. It may seem surprising to be reading about Jesus’ Last Supper during this time of Advent, but, Jesus’ words on that night are really the crux of His mission on earth and show us the certainty that He promised to give us to replace the uncertainty always present in our lives.

Jesus promised us peace. He never assured us that we will experience wealth, happiness (as in always getting everything we desire), stability, good health, freedom from war and tyranny. Some of His followers do experience blessings; some are freely given, some are given as an answer to much prayer, some are given miraculously, but none of those blessings are guaranteed.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ” John 14:27.

It was peace that marked the lives of Mary and Joseph, as they passed through their many trials. It was peace that the shepherds experienced, when they arrives at the humble shelter to honour the baby Jesus. And it is peace that the world craves – the world will not be converted with an intellectual argument; if that were so, then we would have no atheists today. When we have peace, true peace, not a false acceptance of error or sin, and when we live that peace, then not only can we cope with whatever life throws our way, but we also learn to listen, to better help our children, to make good decisions, to discern the Will of God, to have dialogue with other Christians, to build bridges.

images (5)

The Interior Advent

There will be two posts today; The Interior Advent is about our relationship with the Lord, and the Business Update will add a little to the story of setting up my online business.

download (2)

The Interior Advent.

Pope John Paul II continues to be a source of inspiration, as I read through his book, ‘Prayers and Devotions.’ There is a meditation for every day of the year – some follow the Liturgical year, as these Advent posts show you, others simply study various facets of our lives as Christians, eg work, family, leisure. Today’s meditation picks up a common thread which runs between the Incarnation, the Second Coming, and our own personal lives, causing us to remember that we are both uniquely formed and loved by God, and also part of a worldwide fellowship of God’s beloved.

John Paul begins by quoting St. Bernard:

” ‘In the first coming, the Word was seen on earth and mingled with mankind, when, as He himself affirmed, they saw Him and hated Him. In the last coming, every person shall see the salvation of God, and they shall look on Him Whom they have pierced. But the intermediate coming is occult (hidden), in it only the elect shall see Him within themselves, and their souls are thereby saved.’

This Interior Advent is brought to life through constant meditation on and assimilation of the Word of God.It is rendered fruitful and animated by prayer of adoration and praise of God. It is reinforced by constant reception of the Sacraments, those of Reconciliation and the Eucharist in particular, for they cleanse and enrich us with the grace of Christ, and make us ‘new’ in accordance with Jesus’ pressing call: ‘Be converted.’

“In view of this, every day can and ought become Advent for us Christians. It can and ought become Christmas! For the more we purify our souls, the more we shall make room for God in our hearts, the more Christ will be able to come and be born in us!”

Hold Fast What is Good

images (2)

There are many people grieving around the world, this Advent.

The headlines give us news that makes us drop our own cares for a moment and, in spirit, we rush to the sides of lamenting mothers to offer our support.

Wars in far-off places are so common that we hardly notice their reports, but we are nevertheless aware of the never-ending suffering of the peoples caught in the war-zones.

Many families around us are caught in emotional storms, especially at this wonderful, but stressful, time of year.

How can we weather the storms?

St. Paul tells us to “Hold fast what is good.”

Find your source of comfort and beauty and cling to it.

He also says, “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Paul challenges us to accept the will of God.

This frees us to become peaceful, as we stop the search for reasons ‘why’ and focus instead on gratitude for what we still have, and for what we may one day have restored.

Defending Our Freedoms

“Once, at the beginning of his story, man, male and female, heard the voice of temptation: “You will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad” (Gen 3:5). Man yielded to that temptation. He continues to follow it constantly.”

Advent meditation by JPII in “Prayers in Devotions.”

images

The Federal government in Australia is considering a new legislation that has the potential to severely limit the rights of its citizens to freedom of speech and religion.

The proposed ‘Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Act 2012’ states that criticism of the government voiced in the workplace could lead to a lawsuit, if that criticism offends a listener. We are well on the way to being persecuted for speaking only the truth, perhaps even for merely questioning or speculating about some motive or action of our leaders.

An even more worrying aspect of the proposal is that the burden of proof will lie with the accused i.e.we will be guilty until proven innocent – which is the polar opposite of the principal which has underpinned our justice system for over two hundred years – that we are innocent until proven guilty.

A very expensive detention centre was recently built in Tasmania. It was intended to house some of the hundreds of refugee ‘boat people’ who arrive in Australia every year, fleeing from unimaginable suffering in their native countries. Since the Australian government has arranged to send most of these poor people to detention in Malaysia, one wonders if those unused Australian centres will one day house our own citizens, if the jails begin to overflow with people whose only crime has been to speak the truth according to their conscience.

At least no-one can ever take away our freedom to pray against injustice.

download

“Against man’s perennial temptation, we must set the Advent of Christ; we must be born of God and incessantly reborn of Him”

(Ibid.)

Words of Wisdom from John Paul II

images (3)

This is an extract from an Advent meditation taken from “Prayers and Devotions” by Pope John Paul II and edited by Bishop Peter Canisius Johannes van Lierde:

Saint Joseph of Nazareth was a “just man.” It was said to his credit, “as justice,” that he believed in “the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things which do not yet exist.”

That happened at the decisive moment for the history of salvation, when God, the eternal Father, “sent His Son into the world” to accomplish the promise made to Abraham.

It was exactly then that the faith of Joseph of Nazareth was manifested. It showed itself to be up to the measure of the faith of Abraham.

It was manifested even more when “the Word of the Living God became flesh in Mary,” the Spouse of Joseph; by the announcement of the angel, “she was with child through the power of the Holy Spirit.” The faith of St. Joseph was bound to be manifested “before the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.

Then it was indeed that Joseph of Nazareth underwent the great proof of his faith, just as Abraham had seen his faith tried. And now Joseph, “the just man,” believed in Him who “calls into existence things which do not yet exist.”

In fact, God Himself, through the power of the Holy Spirit, called into existence the humanity which was that proper to the only begotten Son of God, the Father’s Eternal Word, in the womb of the Virgin of Nazareth, Mary, the bride promised to Joseph.

And Joseph of Nazareth believed in God: “Joseph, Son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child.” Joseph took Mary to himself- and That which had been engendered in her.

images (8)