A Teary-Eyed-Merry Christmas!
Martin Luther King says : “Religion endows us with the conviction that we are not alone in this vast, uncertain universe....Above the mad mayhem of time stands an eternal God, with wisdom to guide us, strength to protect us, and love to keep us.”
By Leon Bent
The world is hit by a raging Corona pandemic, which has robbed the lives and livelihoods of people, worldwide! For years on end, the Print, Television and Digital Media is splashed with horrifying, coverage of brutality, monstrous bloodshed, mass burials, bitter vengeance, blazing anger, ethnic conflicts, brutal rapes and gruesome murders of innocent girls, the suppression and bloodshed of defenceless Dalits and helpless Tribals, atrocities at will, against minorities, senseless outrage by insinuated, rage-driven mobs, political vendetta, nations at war – everyone’s life hangs by a thread! Peace, joy and harmony are a distant dream! It seems Satan is cunningly waiting in the wings, daggers drawn, looking for an opportune moment to snuff out righteous people. Jesus is the Truth! It is him we must follow! Be gone Satan!
“In these days of calamitous change and catastrophic uncertainty, is there anyone who does not experience depression and bewilderment of crippling fear, which, like a nagging hound of hell, pursues our every footstep,” says Martin Luther King Jr. This devious trend of thought seems to point to the fact that, we are all waiting in anxiety to be hauled ‘over the coals of fire.’ Do you believe this to be true? Wait a minute? Jesus will give you the answer! Martin Luther King says again: “Religion endows us with the conviction that we are not alone in this vast, uncertain universe....Above the mad mayhem of time stands an eternal God, with wisdom to guide us, strength to protect us, and love to keep us....This is religion’s eternal answer to the enigma of existence.”Indeed, Jesus is the unstoppable Divine Master, Redeemer
Luke 2:8-20 describes the experience of the shepherds when Jesus was born. Think about that for a moment. Out of the whole of Jerusalem society, God picked a band of shepherds to hear the news of Jesus' birth. That's intriguing because herdsmen were among the lowest and most despised social groups. Jesus came to preach the good news to the poor! The very nature of the shepherds' work kept them from entering into the mainstream of Israel's society. They couldn't maintain the ceremonial washings and observe all the religious festivals and feasts, yet, these shepherds, just a few miles from Jerusalem, were undoubtedly caring for sheep that someday would be used as sacrifices in the temple. How fitting it is that they were the first to know of the Lamb of God!
More significant, they came to see Him the night he was born. No one else did. Though the shepherds went back and told everyone what they had seen and heard, and though "all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds" (v. 18), no one came to see the Incarnation firsthand. The shepherd's story is a good illustration of everyday life in the contemporary world. You first hear the revelation of the gospel and believe it (Romans 10:9-10). Then you pursue and embrace Christ. And having become a witness to your glorious conversion, you begin to tell others about it (Luke 2:17). Recall how all innocent and tender male infants, under the age of two, were slaughtered by King Herod, thinking that the Boy child, Jesus Christ, would be among them. Insecurity, bigotry, ruthless mass murder, and massacre fanned by rage and indescribable insecurity, personified! You’ve surely heard of the Feast of the Holy Innocents, celebrated as the first Christian martyrs, on December, 28th. Jesus came like a little Babe! He came to be with the victimised and the marginalized who abound in India like the Hathras victim of Uttarpradesh.
The political and economic power of dominant castes affects bureaucracy, and denies justice to Dalits facing violence. In the Hathras (lowest caste) case, the bureaucracy, however, has done the worst of all – threatened the family of the victim, burned the body of the victim without her family’s consent in front of national media, denied rape. Worse still, the Government, even allowed the victimising caste to hold a rally in support of the accused. Such flagrant acts of barbarism and ensuring its national telecast, not only normalises vulgar incivilities, but also celebrates the carnal bestiality of casteism. Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted and preach the good news to the poor! In fact, Jesus is the Truth that sets free the victimised and enslaved and his birth was just for that. Father Stan Swamy accepted his vocation to Jesuit life as a call to be with the victims and the victimised.
This 83-year-old Jesuit from Jharkhand, India, has spent more than 40 years advocating for the rights of the marginalized, particularly of Adivasi communities. He was arrested on October 8, 2020, and sent to jail under perfidious charges, and is one of the latest in a recent string of arrests of human rights defenders in the area. Fr. Stan Swamy vehemently denies the accusations and believes that he is being targeted due to his advocacy of indigenous rights in his work with the Adivasi community. Jesus came to set at liberty those who are fighting for the Truth of human rights violations and are falsely accused and jailed like Stan Swamy and Gaurav. When Gaurav, a church leader from India, ignored warnings to stop sharing about Christianity, false charges were brought against him and he was arrested and imprisoned. False charges had been filed against him blaming him for converting people to Christianity using fraudulent means. Victimisation is so common in the country and some sections of the society like women are victimised various ways like that scaring incident of Nirbhaya illustrates.
Nirbhaya cradled in the arms of Mary: Nirbhaya must be surely being cradled in the arms of Mary, Mother of Hope, in the heaven! The 16 December 2012 Delhi gang rape victim who died later though the Dr. Manmohan Singh government gave the best of treatment, has a message for Christmas when Mary is exalted from a society where woman was despised. The incident took place when a 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern, was beaten, gang-raped, and tortured in a private bus in which she was travelling with her male friend. There were six others in the bus, including the driver, all of whom raped the woman and beat her friend. Eleven days after the assault she was transferred to a hospital in Singapore for emergency treatment but died two days later. The incident generated widespread national and international coverage and was widely condemned, both in India and abroad. Subsequently, public protests against the state and central governments for failing to provide adequate security for women took place in New Delhi and other major cities of India. Since Indian law does not allow the press to publish a rape victim's name, the victim was widely known as Nirbhaya, meaning "fearless", and her struggle and death became a symbol of women's resistance to rape around the world. Dr. Hazel D’Lima, the former Superior General of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, and former Principal of Nirmala Niketan College of social work,expresses her innermost feelings about ‘Nirbhaya’s battle for life, symbolizing the source of divine Life celebrated at Christmas and the Paschal Mystery.
Nirbhaya has breathed her last....
Writhing in pain, she had strongly proclaimed
“I want to live...help me!”
The medical staff did their best; the people rose in unison
To stand by her: from the north, south, east and west
Voices rose loud and shrill – no more deafness to the people’s will
Thousands flocked from every culture and creed
The hour has struck for politicians to heed, the cry of the people
To redress the country’s shame and uphold the dignity of her women!
It was so hoped that Nirbhaya would have survived,
Her dreams and hopes to realize!
Her valiant effort to live drew admiration from the doctors
She found strength to respond and make known the truth of her trauma....
Nirbhaya was cremated on December 30th.
The flame of her ashes rose in fierce defence of one
Who lived in hope, fearlessly, facing the challenge of life valiantly
Till the end...Has she really left us?
No, she lives in the hearts of the young and the elderly: “our
Sister,” “our daughter”
Her prophetic cry resounds: unite and stand for the dignity of women!
Your dream, brave heart, has not ended: It is now the legacy
Of the thousands who walk the path of your striving
Together, with courage and hope undying!
A young woman from a remote village has stormed
The conscience of a nation!
All these make this Christmas a teary-eyed one yet reminding us of the radicalism of Christmas which is evident from the fact that God became human being to share the joys and sorrows of all people. If we reduce the story to its biblical and historical core - removing the stable, the animals, the cherub-like angels, and the inn - then what are we left with? The Jesus of history was a child of a Jewish family living under a foreign regime. He was born into an extended family, living away from home; his family fled from a king who sought to kill him because he posed a political threat.
The Jesus story, in its historical context, is one of human terror and divine mercy, of human abuse and divine love. It is a story that claims God became human in the form of one who is vulnerable, poor and displaced, to unveil the injustice of tyrannical power. While there is nothing wrong with the devotional piety of Christian tradition, a white-washed nativity scene risks missing the most radical aspects of the Christmas story. The Jesus described in the Bible, had more in common with the children of refugees born in Nauru, a tiny island country, covering just 21 square kilometres, located northeast of Australia, than the majority of Australian churchgoers. He, too, was a wheat-skinned baby whose Middle-Eastern family was displaced due to terror and political turmoil. Christmas, in the Christian tradition, is a celebration of God becoming human, as a gift of love, joy and peace. To enjoy adorable, albeit a-historical nativity plays, and all the other wonders of the season, is one way of delighting in this gift. But, if we nostalgically focus on one baby, whilst ignoring numerous tender hearts and minds, who suffer around the world due to politics, religion and poverty; we miss the entire point of the Christmas story!
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