“If you love only those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors/pagans doing that?”
Matthew 5:46 — 47
Each year my need for Christmas deepens.
I give thanks for how savvy were the politicians who placed it at the time of the Winter Solstice, the Great Turning of Earth; and the return of the sun to our northern hemisphere.
It is as if the whole of Divine’s Creation joins us in the birthing anew of the outrageous hope we can reap the rewards of peace — if only we listen to, deeply internalize, and then put into practice the teachings of love and compassion brought to us by the Christ Child.
As the days lengthen and the bubble of Christmas magic fades for another year, we return to the reality of our world.
That includes dominant social structures threatening our and many of our Earth co-habitants lives. One “fruit”of this is their generation of millions of refugees worldwide.
During the Christmas season, many of us watched or participated in pageants of a young Palestinian family from the Galilee seeking refuge — and inns not having room for them.
Two thousand years later — with “Christianity” nominally the religion of the most powerful nations on Earth for a good portion of that time — we have record deaths, destruction and refugees.
Many of these so-called “Christian nations” care little for their own poor much less refugees and the environment.
Many have the biggest economies with the biggest militaries — and have had for decades.
After 14+ years of bombing missions and invasions — rather than peace and security — there is a trail of failed states, increased terrorism, and an exponential growth in the number of refugees.
Yet we persist with this failed approach. Why?
Like most Canadians, I am pleased with the change in Canada’s policies toward refugees.
In September, when the Harper Conservatives were using fear as part of their election campaign, I was encouraged when Toronto’s Cardinal Collins announced that archdiocese’s commitment to raise additional funds to privately sponsor refugees chosen according to need regardless of religion or country of origin.
We, the tax-payer, paid for a number of our former cabinet to go to Rome to witness the “raising” of Collins to the College of Cardinals.
As we know about our former ruling party, they would only do that for a friend and supporter of their policies. This includes the one which distinguished between giving to the poor and those of poverty prevention/reduction — with only the former being granted “charity” status.
Jason Kenney, a Roman Catholic and part of the Conservative-only delegation, was minister for citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism when Canada’s government slashed its refugee sponsorship program and made the above distinction.
For me, there is something incredibly perverse in supporting social structures generating poverty, refugees and environmental degradation while offering assistance to a few of those denied life with dignity because of these structures.
Has Collins changed?
The CCCB, including our Diocese of Victoria bishop, made statements similar to Collins.
For a brief moment, the outrageous hope we celebrate at Christmas soared in my heart!
We could educate our parishioners in a manner consistent with Laudato Si’ — connecting the dots between issues — including how our social structures contribute to the generation of environmental degradation, refugees, wars and terrorism.
As communities of believers united with Spirit, we could then use our power to engage our societies to transform them to authentic cultures of life while welcoming people in need.
What an opportunity!
Not happening — at least not in my parish, Church of the Ascension, Parksville.
In July 2015 we received a very passionate, likeable and young man to be our priest.
He is a refugee from Iraq — arriving in Canada in 2014.
For details I refer you to our parish and diocesan websites particularly the 11/2015 issue of our Diocesan Messenger.
Apparently, with the bishop’s blessing, we and at least five other parishes are sponsoring only Christian families picked by our priest.
Synodality is not part of his approach.
As outlined on our parish website, he personally chose the refugee sponsorship committee.
According to him, unlike the Muslims, Christians have never killed one another, never mind indigenous peoples or peoples of other faiths — when they were the majority or rulers.
To me, this exhibits the worse of parochial education — which he has had.
He repeatedly tells the story: if you have one piece of bread — to whom do you give it?
You don’t give it to your neighbour — you give it to your son!
How is this different to the tax collectors/pagans?
If we don’t ask — why is there only one piece of bread — how are we to change the system that provides so inadequately?
How do we reap the rewards of the promise of Christmas if we don’t follow the teachings of Jesus?