CB12 News n’ Views : ‘Tis the Season

by Father Richard F. Gorman, Chairman, CB #12

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  These legendary words of the celebrated author, Charles Dickens, the initial ones of his renowned novel, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, appear to sum up and to capture the dichotomy of emotions scrambled into this present time of year.

For my Jewish friends and neighbors, it is Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, and since this Tuesday evening past, menorahs have been lit, great deeds from history have been recalled, and gifts have been exchanged in friendship and with love.  For many of our sisters and brothers in the African-American community, it is once more time to observe Kwanzaa, a festival commemorating the strength and the virtues of the black people.  The kinara candles, symbolizing the cultural roots of African-Americans, will be lit as the seven (7) principles of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith are studied and heralded.  For many like myself, the Advent Season is rapidly leading us to the celebration of Christmas, a feast day in the Christian Liturgical Year that is second only to Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection.  Once more, the Birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is recalled with heartwarming carols and the most poignant of sentiments reminding us of the great good that is within us.  Gifts are exchanged to highlight God giving to us the gift of Himself as Emmanuel, “God-with-us.”  Yes, at first, it appears to be the best of times.  Yet, far too often, the worst of our humanity appears to rear its ugly, monstrous head as well.

People flock to shops and malls for gifts.  Still, as many seek to acquire symbols of their love, they engage in “road rage” tactics on the highway, push and shove as they shop, and, in one truly sad instance, gun down a fellow store patron who had the audacity to be the first to lay hands on a most sought-after item.  Songs, sermons, and speeches convey the most inspiring of messages.  Nonetheless, far too often angry words are exchanged on checkout lines, between pedestrians and drivers on our streets, at holiday parties, in public discourse, or even at family gatherings.  Symbols of God’s presence in our midst  —  Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, menorahs  —  become targets for bigots and vandals, are summarily banned from school classrooms, or, even more nauseating and ridiculously, turn into subjects of civil litigation.  Along with such symbols, words that should unite, instead divide, as folks mutter politically correct, pabulum “Happy Holiday” salutations, even though a public opinion poll by no less a vaunted organization as ZOGBY INTERNATIONAL reveals that an astounding ninety-five percent (95%) of all Americans are not offended in the least by being wished a “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” [I hasten to add that one-third of Americans surveyed by the same ZOGBY group averred that they WERE rubbed the wrong way by the “Happy Holiday” greeting!]  Closer to home, just last evening, as I spent a mere hour or so at a local Christmas Party in The Bronx, in the space of that relatively short period of time I had to keep reminding myself that I was, in fact, in attendance at a CHRISTMAS Party because the conversation was anything but reflective of the message of the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus to the shepherds tending their flocks on the hills near to Bethlehem:  “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”  {LUKE 2:14]

So, what is to be done?  Does one throw up one’s hands in despair and lament the lack of Christmas spirit, or does one steal back Christmas, sort of speak, along with its good will and good cheer.  “Yours truly” is definitively opting for the second course of action.  I am not going down into the miserable morass of mean-spiritedness and holiday-connected madness.  My eyes are looking upward for the brightness of that Star  —  i.e., the Star of Bethlehem  —  and my spirits are going to soar with those angels who proclaim “good news” and “glad tidings of great joy.”  Another’s sin and sickness need not set my agenda.  I am adhering to three (3) rather straightforward rules that will permit Christmas to be Christmas and that, indeed, can make every day of the year Christmas:

  1. I am not responding to the dreadfulness of someone’s reprehensible actions with similar conduct on my part.  Some folks feel that, since they have been hurt, they are free to hurt others.  NONSENSE!  Good folks heal their hurt and the misery of others by being the good human being that God empowers us to be by creating us in His Divine Image.  Moreover, when one refuses to permit hurt to dominate one’s agenda and to be determinative of one’s actions, that person makes evident that what is good and right is more powerful than its opposite.  Said individual likewise heals the hurt in his/her life by overcoming it.
  2. I am not going to listen to, read, or otherwise pay attention to the vicious words of others and do my level best to either speak kindly of such individuals or not have any word to or about them at all, even though they may slander or attempt to denigrate me.  Good folks are capable and eager to distinguish the truth from falsehoods and lies.  If people are not wiling to do so, righteousness and goodness are apparently not too important for them.  May their ignorance be their bliss!
  3. I shall endeavor to treat others in the same fashion as I wish to be treated, as such is the essence of Jesus” “Golden Rule.”   Moreover, I shall move on, as the Lord did after His encounter with the rich, young man, from those who treat others and me with disrespect or, worse, contempt.
  4. I am going to learn to do with a little less so that those with less may have a bit more.  Pope Francis has given all of his brothers and sisters in the Church their marching orders in this regard and “YOURS TRULY” is going to make a genuine and sincere effort to get in step with the Holy Father.

In the final words of the classic work mentioned at the onset of this column, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, a chronicle of the inhumanity that human beings often inflict upon each other, one of the main protagonists, Sidney Carton, avows: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done.”  While he refers to his impending death rather than to his life, his words can be instructive for our living.  We can do better.  We can make life better.  Let’s be better!

Happy Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Kwanzaa!  Happy New Year!  See you next week!


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