Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ghetto Land

"People say that we should be glad for what we have.
Tell me, would you be happy in Village Ghetto Land?"          
Stevie Wonder, "Village Ghetto Land", from the album "Songs in the Key of Life" 1976

I think my first brush with empathy came in 1969 when Elvis Presley sang about a life gone bad "In the Ghetto", to my mind an entirely American phenomena.  Stevie Wonder picked up the theme on his "Songs in the Key of Life" album in 1976 when he describes the relative poverty of "Village Ghetto Land."  It saddened me even as a child and as a teenager that people actually lived this way.  I couldn't imagine it.  More truthfully, perhaps I didn't see it.

Notwithstanding that these places exist not only in America but mere blocks from my front door, I am more disheartened by the ghetto of hopelessness in which so many live.  This hopelessness is typified not just by neglected property standards, trash on the street and foul mouths.  It's evident in the lack of respect people pay to each other.  You have to have respect for yourself before you can ever spare it for another, and I believe it is the most arrogant, thoughtless and uncaring of people, no matter their income level who are living in a ghetto of self loathing.

Perhaps, just maybe, it's because so many people can't accept that anyone loves them.  They believe themselves to be unlovable for whatever reason; their sins, their circumstance, their very being.  The thought that God loves them is worse than laughable, it's inconceivable.  They live in a poverty of hope.

And yet, speaking of inconceivable, it's to these that Jesus came to serve.  He's standing right beside them, us, in the depth of our poverty whether we experience it in a hovel or in several thousand square feet in the best part of town.

Easy for me to say.  Is there reason for joy in Village Ghetto Land?

Yes.  Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas! Yeah, I said it...

The traditional greeting lately sounds more and more like "Merry Christmas, dammit!"  It's uncomfortable.  The way some people say "Merry Christmas" can only be described as "in your face."  I'm not sure anymore whether a Christmas greeting is a sincere wish of peace and goodwill, or a dare.

What's wrong with saying "Happy Holidays?"  Wishing someone a happy holiday does not reflect poorly on our standing as Christians.  How we behave otherwise may.

And when did wishing someone a "Merry Christmas" become a statement of patriotism, particularly in this country of increasingly unChristian values?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all.  Let's make 2012 a year in which we live our message all year round; a year in which we speak the truth to all, starting with ourselves.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Arise and Defend

I had the occasion to visit our local mall this week, something I try very hard not to do.  I have to admit, it was beautiful.  They've gone out of their way to capture the Christmas spirit, with wreaths and lights and bows and trees and dammit, it worked.  I opened my wallet, swept along with the "Christmas spirit" and gave generously to the retailers.

But what if?
What if the mall owners were to announce that this year, 2011, would be their last celebrating Christmas.  Beginning in 2012 they would no longer decorate for the Christmas season.  Nothing would, in any way, point towards the birth of our saviour.  No more recognition of Christmas at the mall or at any retailer, public school or government office.  No restaurant, no hotel, no car dealership - no one would display even a single Christmas decoration.

This might be the thing to finally unite Christians, arising and defending the faith!  "Canada is a Christian country, they can't do this, it's the fault of the immigrants, they should go home, blah blah blah, etc."  And we'd be wrong.

The only response in keeping with our faith is "hallelujah!  Finally, at last, we've succeeded in separating consumerism from the message of Christ!"  

It's Our Story
This message of Christ is too important that Christians should entrust it to others to deliver it for their own purposes.  Let's embrace the challenge of telling our story every day of the year so it has credibility at Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

All My Tomorrows

However many they may be, even if none, let's get busy thinking about our tomorrows.  The past, once we have atoned for it, should remain in the past.  It serves a wonderful purpose; it is the anchor in the question "where do I go from here?"  Just remember that in order to sail, you must first hoist the anchor.

It's the beauty of the Mass, and why it is far more meaningful than any new-age bible revival worship service can ever be.  The Mass has the unique quality of reliving a moment in history in real time.  Through the celebration of the eucharist, the real body and blood of Christ, the sacrifice is not just a point on a calendar but a living event, happening again right in front of us.  It is up to each of us to enter into it, or not.

When the readings and the Gospel and the psalm are interpreted by the homilist, we quite correctly ask ourselves, "what does this mean to me?" and "what am I going to do differently because of it?"  These are the two central questions asked and answered by Jesus' disciples every time he taught a lesson through the parable.

Entering into the mystery daily or at the very least, at weekly Mass allows us to ask and answer those questions anew, to look forward to all our tomorrows, no matter how many or few they may be.

What does it Christ saying to me?  What will the Holy Spirit guide me to do differently?  What does tomorrow bring?