Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 29, 2001
Repenting for sins of the father
Although contested over the centuries, Christians believe that God became fully human and was born in a stable. He did not masquerade as a human or use his humanity as a convenient disguise as in the mythological accounts of other deities.
The Word became flesh with all the frailties associated with our human nature. The God who created the Milky Way depended on his teenage mother's milk for sustenance. He depended on his father to flee from those who wished to persecute him.
As a young boy of 12, he became a concern for his parents and learned to be obedient. Then, it seemed, he lived a life of relative obscurity in a small Mediterranean village.
We may assume he learned a trade. We can imagine that as a young man he worked in his father's carpenter shop and more than once hit his thumb with a hammer.
His parables show he was familiar with the hardships of making a living. He prayed for daily bread. He was familiar with the meaning of blood, sweat and tears, humiliation, condemnation, torture and death.
He knew the vulnerability of our human condition from personal experience and not just as an all-knowing God.
During his short public life he paid particular attention to the weakest members of the human family, the sick, the outcasts, the women and children. He was born as a child and said unless we become like children we shall not enter the kingdom.
Against the advice of his "handlers," he encouraged the children to come to him and warned those who dared to scandalize the little ones. He defended the woman at the well.
More than once, he used the Samaritan, the ethnic outcast, as an example. He was criticized for eating with social rejects.
After the resurrection he said: "Tell Peter that I have risen and I go before you into Galilee." He was not going to Jerusalem, the centre of power, prestige and personal piety. He chose to go to the backwaters of Galilee as a living sign amidst the poor.
This does not mean he neglected the rich. He invited and encouraged them to change their ways. We, in the West, should pay more attention to the biblical texts concerning the rich. That's all about us.
Let the poor find consolation in the passages that deal with poverty. The parts that speak about wealth are sufficient to serve us a lifetime. If we allow ourselves to be guided by these insights, we may eventually wind up at the side of the poor.
A Church aligned with the rich has had difficulty with this. Not until Vatican II were Catholics encouraged to read the Bible.
At the Latin American bishops' conference in Medellin, Colombia, the Church described itself as a "sinful Church in a sinful society." It recommended that "religiously motivated men and women work actively in human history to construct a more equitable society, a work that necessarily involves politics, because all human activity has a political dimension."
In our recent election, where Christianity was an issue, competition in the marketplace, wealth creation and tax cuts were discussed a lot. The stunning fact that since 1989 the poverty rate among Canadian children has increased from 14 per cent to 20 per cent was hardly mentioned.
Nor was there any breath wasted on environmental degradation as a consequence of human greed.
Our differences are not so much between East and West as between rich and poor. The great division in Christian churches, according to some observers, involves a gulf separating those who read the Gospel as a summons to the struggle for justice and those who are indifferent or even hostile to such an interpretation. Where do we stand?
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