2016 is being widely described as a year of horror, even cursed. More balanced commentators describe it as the year of revolution in which changes in the political and economic landscapes have begun to take place in the Western world. Revolutions usually occur when a section within a community feels ignored, oppressed or believe their leaders to be corrupt or have failed to govern fairly. Revolutions can be violent, but in 2016 the Western revolution was a silent one conducted through the ballot box.
The ‘shock’ expressed by those who believed that the results of the vote were a foregone conclusion has not led to a violent counter-reaction, but has led to serious attempts to overturn the results and to vilify and even ‘punish’ those who voted the ‘wrong’ way. It seems that democracy only works when people submit to the stated agenda of those holding or seeking power.
Closer to home, the Premier of Victoria was extremely vocal in his view that the thwarted alleged Islamic terrorist plot destined to cause significant damage in central Melbourne on Christmas Eve was an act of ‘sheer evil’ with no connection to the religious beliefs of the alleged jihadists. This same Premier heads a government that has enacted the most liberal abortion laws in Australia; forbids protests outside abortion clinics; has made the ‘Safe Schools Policy’ compulsory in Victorian government schools and is about to introduce a Bill to permit the practice of euthanasia in the State. He describes these practices as compassionate and progressive while vilifying those who oppose them on religious grounds because they believe them to be evil.
What is evil and what is compassionate are clearly the subjective views of those who hold power. Some commentators have made the point that the ‘revolution’ has occurred because the power holders have denigrated the depth of the influence of religion in the lives of those who struggle to keep up with their religion’s moral and ethical teachings.
The political and academic secularist elites may have no sense of soul or conscience which resonates with a creator and his moral laws, but resistance to the anti-Christian, particularly anti-Catholic, legislation being forced upon the citizens of Western societies is reported as being a significant element in the ‘revolution’ of 2016.
Christians believe that God’s creative process is to bring order out of chaos. This is the teaching found in the Genesis creation stories. In contrast, evil is that which creates chaos out of order, causing turmoil in the lives of individuals, groups and religious and secular institutions. To deny the existence of evil or to allow it to thrive through masquerading as good, is to be its servant. Its ultimate goal is to exercise total and absolute control, for it is control not hate, that is the opposite of love, the creative, redeeming power of God.
We have just celebrated the nativity of Our Lord, but the birth narrative and associated events must be seen as a whole rather than as a series of disconnected segments. The manger scene with its new born vulnerable baby and loving parents, the socially unacceptable shepherds and Wise Men from the Gentile world is one of joy, peace, worship, generosity and inclusivity. It assures us that God is available, accessible and approachable to those who choose to approach him.
The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt as refugees is a reminder that love demands that we be welcoming and hospitable to those in real need, especially those in need of protection from danger.
Yet we must not overlook the events that triggered this migration to the relative safety of Egypt. The Wise Men from the East visited King Herod and gave him the news that the star they had followed was a sign that a king had been born in Judea. Herod and the elite of Jerusalem interpreted this news as a threat to their agenda and reacted violently by slaughtering the Holy Innocents in order to protect it.
The Christmas narrative makes clear to us what God’s nature is, and how humans are able to manifest that nature. It also shows us the chaos and turmoil that evil creates through the exercise of self-centred rebellion against God’s loving nature.
It is no accident that Christmas is a season when those who recognise the identity of the Christ child kneel in worship. We also experience the caring selfless generosity of which humans are capable. At the same time, the seasonal spike in violence, crime, abuse, accidental deaths and irresponsible behaviour is a manifestation of the turmoil that results from the self-centred desire to exercise control over others or through abandoning control over oneself. Christmas is indeed the best of times and the worst of times.
As we enter the New Year, there are those who predict that the ‘curse’ of 2017 will be worse than that of 2016. Time will tell whether this prediction is true, but what is more certain is that new crises will be attention grabbers demanding action and resources, while the long-suffering victims of other people’s agendas will be forgotten.
The Feast of the Holy Innocents has always been a reminder of the consequences of evil, but each generation needs to identify the innocent victims in its midst and meet their needs. Fr Longenecker in his blog ‘Patheos’ (Dec 28th) identifies which children are vulnerable to other people’s controlling agendas in our current age. He lists the unborn, the sexually and physically abused, child slaves and prostitutes, children in poverty, children affected by divorce, child soldiers, children spoiled through overindulgence and children brought up in secular, materialistic and atheistic environments whose creative souls are stunted. Some would add those children denied the nurture of a mother and a father. Sometimes love is not all we need.
Of course children are not the only innocent victims of evil actions. Many of Fr Longenecker’s list applies to adults, but to this list we can now add the vulnerable who are likely to be pressured into accepting the ‘compassionate’ option of ‘end of life health management’ previously known as euthanasia. It is clear in those countries that practice euthanasia that euthanasia is fast becoming as all embracing as the abortion industry has become.
We Christian’s face a multifaceted challenge to our freedom and our ability to practice and promote our faith. The ‘revolution’ of 2016 should encourage us because there are hopeful signs that the silent majority are beginning to say, “No” to those who have foisted their agenda on them. In the defence and promotion of our faith we must be resolute and continue to trust our God from whom nothing can separate us.
In our ministries and mission within the Church and Ordinariate, St Paul urges us to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labour is not in vain in the Lord (1Cor 15:58).
In this year of the fifth anniversary since our erection as an Ordinariate let us build on the foundations that have now been laid down.