December 1, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Not to worry, help is on the way

Cynthia DewesThanksgiving is not long past, and it’s already doubtful that we’re still thankful.

This is one heck of a world, isn’t it? We have people killing babies—including their own—cheating, stealing, lying, you name it, it’s in the news every day.

People don’t just divorce each other, they try to destroy the other. Countries invent new and better weapons to eliminate themselves and others in the name of religion, in the name of God!

Politicians, parents, teachers, Scout masters, in fact, nearly all people in authority, are routinely revealed to have feet of clay.

Rather than good people who work hard, eat their Wheaties and tithe, they’re shown to be child molesters, extortionists or wife beaters. It’s hard to watch TV or read the newspapers, it’s so unnerving. We think, who are these people? They don’t sound like anyone we know.

The worst thing is, if we think about history, this phenomenon is not new. It seems the world has been trying to go to hell since it began, with civilizations rising and falling, and despots appearing and disappearing regularly. Somehow, ordinary people were and are caught in the maelstrom of events, schlepping along in innocent pursuit of daily bread, hoping for a little love and a little fun thrown in now and again.

Imagine living in Roman times as a lowly peon in some wretched country conquered by the Romans. After all, as they sing in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Rome continually “raped Thrace thrice.” Or, how about being a Jew in Europe during the Holocaust or a Catholic priest in Mexico during its revolution? Even being an unemployed person during the Great Depression must’ve felt like a hopeless situation.

Despair would be the natural and inevitable human response to such dilemmas, except for one reason: Christ. With the birth of Christ comes the promise not only of a way out of pain and grief, but also eternal joy and vindication as creatures of God. Advent is the time we set aside to ponder this wonderful mystery, and to show our gratitude for its gift.

The Church has set aside four weeks before the feast of Christmas to prepare ourselves for this great event. While this time has often deteriorated into four weeks of mindless shopping, gorging and distraction in our culture, perhaps we can try to make better use of it.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with kids awaiting Santa Claus or people decorating the house or baking Christmas goodies. Christmas music and Nativity scenes, school plays and concerts, all contribute to a joyous anticipation of the holy day. But, Advent is also a time to examine the décor, the music, the messages, which exist inside ourselves.

Christ was born as a humble baby in a humble family. So we might consider, are we truly humble, or do we think only of our own needs or our own importance in the world? Christ came to serve the poor and powerless. Do we actually serve such people or do we just throw money at charities and shake our heads at the news on TV?

Christ was not judgmental concerning human values, such as appearances or wealth or status. Rather, he judged others only by the divine values from God that they demonstrated in their lives. Are we judgmental? And if so, are we judging the right things?

We have four weeks to think about the meaning of God’s great gift.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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