The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Christmas Feedback

He said also to the man who had invited him,
"When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

Luke 14:12-14

Today is "Black Friday" in these United States. Has anyone checked to see what the carbon footprint is for this day? To heck with that, Christmas looms just over of a month away and preparations must be made. While Catholics anticipate the beginning of Advent, a time of preparation and anticipation of the birth of Our Lord, the secular world launches into this panicked frenzy of consumerism that has come to be the antithesis of Lent. Faith, hope, and charity get set on the shelf, today. It's all about the shopping.

Ponder how this season might be different if instead of expending obscene amounts of money on buying material items for family, friends, and acquaintances, that same money was spent on caring for those in our lives who are truly in need. Gone would be the stress of finding that perfect gift for the person who seems to have everything. After all, one's starting place when picking out a gift for someone involves the discernment of what that person needs. Most often the answer comes back, especially in America, "well, nothing" which leads to the second criteria of what does the particular person want; which leads to whole new level of stress as one has to figure out how well one really knows the wants of the person in question; hence the birth of the gift card which serves as a tasteful admission of failure to know the wants of someone supposedly regarded important enough to buy a a gift for, but whose life has escaped one's notice. The gift card boldly professes, "I really love you, but I just don't know you," and it proves far less crass than cash.

Yet if one only gave to those in need, then the dilemma of shopping for Christmas might take an interesting turn as one could soon discover that none of his family, friends, or acquaintances fit the bill. How many of one's friends and family go to bed hungry? Which family member has no place to sleep, tonight? Which person in one's life truly needs help with the basics of living? Most reading this rejoice in the blessing that all of the people in their circle are doing well in that regard. That being the case, Christmas gift giving at its most fundamental, (and yes, clinical-bah humbug,) level becomes a shuffling of material goods between those who are in the same relative state of need. The gifts that God has given to one do not get shared with those who have received fewer blessings. So while the means to give to all of God's children exists, the distribution of those gifts whose origin is the Almighty gets confined into a feedback loop of sorts of family giving to family; friends giving to friends; and the rest of the world can fend for itself.

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Luke 10:29

Christ answered this lawyer's question with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Throughout the Gospel Our Lord continuously reminds one that love for strangers and even one's enemies bears true merit.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."
Luke 6:32-26

Consider how different the world today might be were the true spirit of Christ celebrated just for one month leading up to Christmas. Imagine if instead of rushing to the mall, people rushed to help their neighbors; the one's they don't know; the ones they avert their eyes when they see them; the one's who don't speak their language and live in a far off country but who are nonetheless literally starving to death.

Why is this so hard to imagine? Why can man so easily embrace the notion that he can save the the planet by simply recycling products or even investing money in vaporous carbon offsets, yet the notion of bringing that self-sacrificing mentality to a real human level where it is most needed and even most tangible seems the most difficult to employ? Would he prefer a world that was environmentally imperfect, but where its people were well fed, or is a human life less valuable than a green planet? Is one's carbon footprint deeper and more profound than his Christian one?

On Thanks Giving Day, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, touched on this theme of the world's responsibility to feed itself in a speech given to participants in the 34th general conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. The Pope said:

"Peace, prosperity, and respect for human rights are inseparably linked. The time has come to ensure, for the sake of peace, that no man, woman and child will ever be hungry again!"

The bumper sticker reads, "Jesus is the reason for the season." Let all of mankind keep that simple message in his heart and give a little more to the folks outside his circle. Perhaps the question of what to buy for family can take on a new meaning when one realizes that his family includes all the members of the mystical Body of Christ.


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