Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 29, 1999
Jubilee is time to rejoice
While many see millennium as time of gloom, Church is preparing to encounter Jesus
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
On one Internet search engine, typing in the word "jubilee' pulls up less than half a dozen sites. "Millennium," however, brings in a plethora of site suggestions.
And "Armageddon," "end of the world" and "year 2000" combined with "disaster" offer sites filled with reasons why we should all be hiding under our beds when the clock strikes midnight Jan. 1.
"There are people who have been predicting the end of the world for years," laughed Cathy Harvey, coordinator of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. "If they were true then, we wouldn't be here now."
Whether it's about celebrating a once in a lifetime event or awaiting the coming of the world's demise, the clock is ticking and the year 2000 is fast approaching.
You can bet there will be dancing in the streets in anticipation of the 10 seconds leading to the new millennium. You can bet there will be prayers of joy and gratitude celebrating 2,000 years since the birth of Christ.
And you can bet that in some dark corner of the world, there will be those in bomb shelters waiting for the big bang to end it all.
Many Christians smirk at the latter.
"There's a reason they call it jubilee," said Rosaleen Zdunich, coordinator of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action. "It's a joyous time."
Harvey added, "It's a time that together we as Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. That's the bottom line."
But the Armageddon brouhaha often captures more attention than a jubilee celebration because it's something extreme, said Archbishop Thomas Collins.
"Disasters are attractive . . . they're exciting," Collins said. "People are drawn to that.
"You can be sure in the next millennium there will be wars, rumours of wars, plagues and disasters because in the last two millennia there were wars, rumours of wars, plagues and disasters.
"It doesn't just all go away suddenly."
But Zdunich sees the millennium opening doors for a healing process.
"From my perspective I think it's going to be a new millennium of hope and peace. It will be a time for all faiths and religions to strive to build respect and understanding.
"Last millennium there were a lot of religious wars; this one will bring peace."
The Interfaith Centre, whose membership includes religious leaders from various Christian and non-Christian faiths in the community, already represents the spirit of the jubilee that Zdunich describes.
"I don't know if we sit and talk about peace among each other, but just the fact that we can sit together and discuss issues . . . that already creates an understanding."
Known in Christianity as the Great Jubilee, the year is a celebration for all faiths. And Harvey emphasizes the importance of the celebration as a universal one among Christians.
"This is not a Roman Catholic celebration; it's not an evangelical celebration, . . . it's for all Christians.
"We have celebrations happening throughout our lifetimes, but (jubilee) only happens once in our lifetime. This is the first time we as Christians will celebrate something so core to our lives."
Harvey bubbles with excitement when she speaks of events she is planning for the jubilee year. Her joy is infectious and she wouldn't want it any other way.
For those who give her the gloom and doom scenario, Harvey can't help but want to shake them up.
"And I say 'Don't you get it? Don't you know what's happening?'
"Some people see that kind of fear mongering. It's quite confining to be that fanatical."
A time of reflection is what best describes jubilee for Collins. As he has repeated in many of his homilies and talks this year, this is a time "to look at who we are, where we come from and where we're going.
"Time is ticking away, but we need to sit back and reflect on our lives."
Collins likes to portray the closing of this millennium and the opening of the next as the media often does at year's end with its People of the Year and Events of the Year stories.
He sees it as a chance to look back at the past year or millennium and see what has happened throughout our lifetimes. It's the starting point to reviewing the past joys and mistakes, reconciling them and then moving forward.
"It's like the regulator button on the mileage meter in our cars. We need to push that every once in a while and go back to zero. It's a good time to do that. It's the idea of starting fresh."
Starting anew also requires a period of penitence, said Collins. A time to ask for forgiveness.
Collins uses the example of Pope John Paul, who over the past years has "recognized the failings of the Catholic faith . . . and asked for forgiveness. Maybe this is saying that we too should do this in our own lives."
Collins refers to the Armageddon syndrome as a "devilish pleasure."
"It gives a thrill to people thinking about it, but has no connection to reality," Collins said. "The fact is that we do not know the day or the hour and it doesn't matter that we do not know.
"For each of us it could be two seconds from now or it could be 50 years. What the jubilee gets us to do is think about it."
Collins isn't morbid when he refers to jubilee as an opportunity to think about our own death. Death is "an encounter with Jesus Christ . . . and we need to be ready for that."
And in that context, said Collins, the year 2000 should not be seen as a time for mourning.
In many respects, there is already gloom in our midst. It's part of the atmosphere in which Bob Schmidt of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace works everyday.
Poverty, debt, malnutrition among children, wars and disaster relief are just a few of the causes on which CCODP has been working for decades. The causes have always been at the forefront of the organization's work, but the jubilee year has given these issues a boost.
Jubilee hasn't made issues like poverty more important than they were five years ago, said Schmidt. But by putting poverty and jubilee in the same sentence, it has raised awareness for the cause.
"People start asking 'What is this thing jubilee?' They start looking at some of the issues. It provides an opportunity for people to look at (the causes)."
The work that the organization does is filled with death and sadness. But like jubilee, Schmidt sees the work as uplifting.
"Everyone looks at the sad parts of it," Schmidt said. "But there's also a joyous, celebratory feel about it. There's a lot of joyous uplifting things happening - like the community kitchens in Peru. They have 10,000 volunteers and they feed a million people a day. There are wonderful things happening."