True Hope is based on our actions to help the community, not just ourselves
Last week, I shared of making our important relationships a focus for Christmas. It’s not about gifts: but Christ re-born in us by happy and peace-filled relationships. Post – November 23, 2022 – For new energy in our relationships…
I also spoke of how Advent teaches us to prepare for the birth of Christ:
Week 1= peace: reconcile with your past by going to confession or look for counselling;
Week 2= hope: share your past struggles & success with others, and teach them new skills;
Week 3= joy: name & appreciate what you have, and the things people have done for you;
Week 4= love: express your appreciation for what you have received by helping someone.
I also spoke of the importance of making our important relationships a focus for Christmas. It’s not about gifts: but Christ re-born in us by happy and peace-filled relationships.
Today’s readings remind us that HOPE must be supported by some action. A basic example is facing many young people in Kenya right now: exams and the results they hope to achieve!
Exams are based on knowledge that we are supposed to have learnt (unless you have a nasty teacher!). So, if we don’t do our work, we cannot hope for a good result.
The difference between religious people and so called atheists, is that those with religious beliefs know if we play our part, God will help where we are unable (not unwilling). Non-religious people have no one except themselves to look after their future health/ wealth/ peace.
Therefore non-religious people often find themselves under stress, thinking they have to do everything, especially as they grow older which can lead to depression and a desire to end it all.
One of the saddest things in the modern worlds is so many young people growing up without a knowledge of God. This translates into more mental breakdown, and nowhere to look for the truth when the world makes them sad.
The first reading shows us that God is ready to do something for us, while the Gospel reminds us that we are all called to action – to repentance.
Unfortunately, repentance is something all of us find difficult! The main reason is we keep focusing on what the other person has done to us: it’s their fault; they should have known; etc.
Repentance is more than saying sorry for what we have done, personally against others =personal sin. First, we can cause pain to others without knowing it. Second, our society can be unjust to certain people and we are just part of that society =corporate sin.
Therefore, the importance of the theme for Advent Week 1= peace. We have to sit down together and listen to each other’s side of the story.
Only then can we begin to build hope. That hope will grow stronger the more we share our pain and listen to the other person.
In Canada, there is the process of reconciliation with First Nations people. In Australia there is the process of an indigenous voice in parliament for Aboriginal people. It’s slow work. People, today, don’t want to hear about the crimes of yesterday. There can also be an arrogant assumption by some, that: it was in the past, they should move on.
This can also happen in our families. Are we guilty of that?
One key point that can affect our willingness to have a change of heart (repentance), is our expectations of the other person. That is, we can expect too much from them:
First, more than they are capable of doing: because we have pre-determined what they should be able to do; or because we are unaware of the full circumstances of the other person.
Second, more than they have been trained to do: what is reasonable to expect? This can come from assumptions, or from arrogance.
For example, the Pharisees and Scribes 2000 years ago: “And do not presume to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father.” We should not rely on the idea that ‘we are Christians.’
Employees in the past were often dismissed once they could no longer work hard, or were sick. Government rules now protect them: positive laws of justice, as the first reading promised us.
At times the a laws of country need to change. Are we part of the movement to change laws to protect the dignity of people? This is a form of repentance.
Repentance is not just for the sake of justice but, equally, the reward of having a peaceful community for the long term: less possibility of uprising by the people treated unjustly.
Kenya is a country in a delicate situation. Many people are going without work and without food. How can we improve their situation, to enjoy Christmas and keep Kenya safe? May God give us courage to reflect deeply this week about our duty to the Community.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI