Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Birth!

by José Arregi (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Redes Cristianas
December 24, 2013

Friends, in the clarity of your days or the middle of your night, listen again to the voice of the Christmas angel: "Fear not. I proclaim to you a great joy." And the simplest sign is enough: "A child is born to you." When are children not born in spite of general hardship? In the manger where I live, in Arroa Behea, two children were born this year: Marena on the second and Josu on the fourth. And how they smile! How Izaro who is only six weeks old smiles too, placid as an island, bright as a star!

Every birth is a sign, a huge miracle, a beautiful promise, a deep call. Living is a miracle. Just existing is already a miracle. And the greatest miracle is the tenderness that cares, nurtures, and counsels. That is "God", and it doesn't matter whether you give Him a name or not. He Is What He Is. And it's very different from what we insinuate when we say "There is what there is." No. What He Is is infinitely more and better than what there is. So the angel proclaimed to some poor shepherds in Bethlehem out in the open air in the middle of the night: "Fear not. A child has been born to you. His name is Jesus -- 'God saves'. He is Emmanuel -- 'God with us'."

It is Christian metaphorical language, you would say. Yes, and it deserves huge esteem, deep consideration, if only for having inspired so many beautiful poems and melodies, having comforted the many sorrows of poor people, for having encouraged so much kindness and so much just struggle despite all the failures. I don't want to dispense with the language of angels and shepherds, glorias and mangers. I don't want to do without Jesus, the human flesh of God, the Mystery of the world.

But I don't want to lock Jesus in exclusivist denominational thinking, as if he were the only incarnation of God. Nor do I want to define God according to a dualistic schema, as if He were an Entity or a Somebody. He is much more, He is the Infinite Mystery. When the Christian confesses that God became flesh in Jesus, he is basically confessing the same thing all believers of all traditions and non-believing poets of all time have expressed -- that whatever is is inhabited by the unspeakable Infinite, Beauty that enraptures, embracing Kindness, and that we can always trust despite everything, and recreate the world every day as we remake the Nativity scene each year.

I don't know if you put up a Nativity scene in your home -- the angel, the grotto, the shepherds, the ox and ass, and Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus. It's all so endearing! Put it your way. Put kindness and tenderness. Life is hard, the year has been difficult, and the future...who knows about the future? But fear not. Take care of your life, care for your soul, care for your own, care for all beings.

And look at it all with new eyes. Everything is miracle and promise of Presence. Nothing is what it seems. Everything is constantly being and being reborn in Another Reality, towards a Different Reality present and possible. Celebrate the Birth of life in your home. Look with the eyes of a child. The eyes of a child are enough to light up all the darkness in the world, in Lampedusa and Melilla, in Africa and in neglected Latin America.

And all beings. All beings proclaim the same thing as the good and cheerful angel of Bethlehem: "Fear not, blessed creature. You come from Beauty, you come from Goodness. You are more precious than all the precious stones, much more than all the gold, incense and myrrh. Believe in your blessing, blessed creature. Be a blessing, bring blessing in your small wounded hands, in your little beating heart."

Look, the gorse, the primroses and Joseph's flowers are already blooming in the heart of winter, gladdening the bare mountain and shady paths. See it? See each being as a humble sign of that "Goodness which is the source of all things and that some day will be wholly in all beings," as says the biographer who looked at all things, Francis of Assisi, inventor of the Nativity.

If you look in that way, you will be born again and a different world will be born. Merry Christmas!

Open to God's plan

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
December 29, 2013

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

The gospel accounts leave no doubt whatsoever. According to Jesus, God has a great plan: to build in the world a big human family. Drawn by this plan, Jesus devotes himself entirely to everyone seeing God as Father and learning to live together as brothers and sisters. This is the way that leads to the salvation of the human species.

For some, the current family is being ruined because the traditional ideal of the "Christian family" has been lost. For others, any novelty is progress towards a new society. But what is a family that is open to the humanizing plan of God like? What features could we highlight?

Love between the spouses. That's the first thing. The home is alive when the parents love each other, mutually support one another, share sorrows and joys, forgive one another, talk and trust each other. The family begins to be dehumanized when selfishness, arguments, and misunderstanding increase.

Relationship between parents and children. Love between the spouses isn't enough. When parents and children are at odds and there's hardly any communication, family life becomes impossible, joy disappears, everyone suffers. The family needs a climate of mutual trust to think about the good of all.

Attention to the most vulnerable. Everyone should find acceptance, support and understanding in their home. But the family becomes more human especially when the littlest ones are cared for with love and affection, when the elderly are loved respectfully and patiently, when the sick and disabled are tended to solicitously, when the one who is having a hard time isn't abandoned.

Openness to the needy. A family works for a more humane world when it isn't closed in on its own problems and interests but is open to the needs of other families: broken homes that are experiencing painful conflictive situations and need support and understanding, families without work or any income that need material aid, immigrant families that are asking for acceptance and friendship.

Growth in faith. In the family one learns to live out the most important things. Therefore it's the best place to learn to believe in that good God, Father of all, to get to know Jesus' lifestyle, to discover his Good News, to pray together around the table, to take part in the community life of the followers of Jesus. These Christian families contribute to building that more just, worthy and happy world desired by God. They are a blessing to society.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The materialism of Santa Claus and spirituality of the Child Jesus

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Leonardo Boff Blog (em português)
December 21, 2013

One day, the Son of God wanted to know how the children whom, when he used to walk among us, he would touch and bless and would say "Let the children come to me...for the kingdom of God belongs to them" (Luke 18:16), were doing.

As in the ancient myths, he mounted a celestial lightning bolt and came down to Earth a few weeks before Christmas. He took the form of a street-sweeper who cleaned the streets. Thus he could better see the passersby, the shops all lit up and filled with objects wrapped for gifts, and especially his younger brothers and sisters who wandered around poorly dressed, many of them hungry and begging alms. He grieved greatly because he found that hardly anyone followed the words that he had left: "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me." (Mark 9:37)

And he also saw that no one was talking about the Child Jesus who comes, secretly, on Christmas Eve, bringing gifts for all children. His place was taken by a good-natured old man, dressed in red with a bag on his back and a long beard who foolishly yells at all hours, "Ho! Ho! Ho! ... look at Santa Claus here." Yes, on the streets and inside the big stores there he was, hugging the children and taking from the bag the gifts that the parents had purchased and placed there. It's said he came from afar, from Finland, riding a sleigh pulled by reindeer. People had forgotten another old man, a truly good one: St. Nicholas. From a wealthy family, he gave Christmas gifts to poor children saying it was the Child Jesus who had sent them. No one was talking about any of this. They only spoke of Santa Claus, invented over a hundred years ago.

As sad as seeing the children abandoned in the streets was realizing that they were being deceived, seduced by the lights and the glow of gifts, the toys and a thousand other things that fathers and mothers usually buy as presents to be distributed at the Christmas supper.

Ads, many of them misleading, were screaming loudly, stirring up desire in the children who later ran to their parents, begging them to buy what they saw. The Child Jesus dressed as a street-sweeper realized that what the angels sang at night in the fields of Bethlehem -- "Behold, I proclaim to you great joy for all the people because today a Savior has been born to you... Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will" (Luke 2:10-14) -- meant nothing anymore. Love had been replaced by things, and the joviality of God who became a child had disappeared in the name of the pleasure of consumption.

Saddened, he took another celestial lightning bolt and before returning to heaven, he wrote a short letter for the children. It was found under the front doors of the houses and of the hovels in the hills above the city called favelas in particular. The Child Jesus wrote:

My dear little brothers and sisters,

If you are looking at the manger and see the Child Jesus there and are filled with faith that he is the Son of God the Father who became a little boy, a boy like one of us and that he is the God-Brother who is always with us,

If you can see in other boys and girls, especially the poor ones, the hidden presence of the Child Jesus being born within them,

If you can make the child hidden inside your parents and adults be reborn so that love, tenderness, affection, caring and friendship emerge in them instead of many presents,

If, when you look at the manger, you discover Jesus poorly clad, almost naked, and remember the many children who are equally poor and poorly dressed and you suffer in the depths of your hearts because of this inhumane situation and decide starting now, that when you grow up, you will change these things so that there won't be children crying from hunger and cold anymore,

If you notice the three wise men with gifts for the Child Jesus and think that even the kings, the great and wise of this world, recognize the hidden greatness of this little boy who whimpers in the straw,

If, when you see all those animals in the manger, like the sheep, the ox, and the cow, you think that the whole universe is also illuminated by the Child Jesus and that we all -- the galaxies, stars, suns, Earth, other natural beings and we ourselves -- make up the great House of God,

If you look up and see a star with its tail and remember that there is always a Star like the one at Bethlehem above you, illuminating you and showing you the best paths,

If you sharpen your ears and hear from your inner senses, celestial music like that of the angels in the fields of Bethlehem announcing peace on earth,

Then you will know that it is I, the Child Jesus, who is coming again and renewing Christmas. I will always be near you, walking with you, crying with you, and frolicking with you until that day when we all -- humankind and universe -- come to the House of the Father and Mother of infinite goodness to be eternally happy together as one big reunited family.

Bethlehem, December 25 of year 1.
Signed: The Child Jesus