You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
In this last week we have seen what can only be described as an incitement to racial and religious abuse broadcast across social media networks. No doubt it is always there but this week it was given greater coverage. At the same time we are supposed to be preparing to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace into the world. How can those two diametrically opposed positions be reconciled? Quite simply they cannot. We need to remember that “All peoples comprise a single community and have a single origin [created by one and the same Creator God]. . . . And one also is their final goal: God.” These words are taken from Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council. This must have taken great courage and brilliance to write this in 1965 when very few people thought that way.
Thomas Merton in his writings speaks of our True Self and our False Self. The False Self is sadly the side of us that we most often display. It seeks material happiness by the acquisition of wealth, status, power, control of those less able to look after themselves; in other words the worship of the Great God ME. It is a rather shallow and unlovely picture to present to the world, but it is the picture displayed by those messages on social media. On the other hand the True Self is the God- with-us, God within us, Emmanuel, whose coming we anticipate with joy in Advent. And since Deus caritas est, God is Love, then our True Self, being Love cannot, will not, tolerate such abuse. Rather it calls us to follow the path laid down by the Prince of Peace; to speak out against it. As St Luke said: ‘ because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.’ Luke 1:78-79 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
Let us then use Advent as a time to prepare our hearts and minds, to ask for God’s help to put aside those words and actions that foster our False Self, to make room for our work on developing our True Self, the God within us; to show the world that there is a better way, that material happiness is illusory. The False Self will die but the True Self will live since the death of the Saviour whose coming we celebrate at Christmas has overcome Death. Let us follow St Paul’s advice to the young Church at Rome: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years