By Tony Magliano
The commercialism of Christmas can easily tempt us to become spiritually sidetracked. A barrage of commercials tries to sell the illusion that buying more things will bring us joy. But some commercials get it right.
I remember fondly the heart-touching Christmas television commercials by Hallmark Cards. They had a wonderful knack for inspiring the best in us. And they always ended with Hallmark’s unforgettable slogan: “When you care enough to send the very best”.
Two-thousand years ago, amidst crushing poverty, enslavement and brutal Roman military occupation the Jewish people waited for God to send the promised anointed messiah to come and free them from their bondage. But beyond all expectations and hopes, God did not send a warrior-messiah, instead “caring enough to send the very best” – almighty God came himself!
Let us never take this most awesome fact for granted. Instead, let us often reflect that in our lowliness – especially in our vulnerability to sin and certain death – God in his divine humility and selfless love took upon himself our human nature, entered our self-inflicted wounded world, and by his teachings, example, miracles, passion, death, resurrection and by the sending of the Spirit of Truth showed us the way out of sin and death into the Kingdom of God and everlasting life!
Now how can true believers not get excited about this? And how can we not evangelise – proclaim in word and deed – this “good news of great joy!” And yet, sad to say, we often find ourselves rather sheepish about this greatest news in human history.
The most important modern Catholic document on evangelisation – the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (“Evangelization in the Modern World”) penned by St. Pope Paul VI – just celebrated its 45th anniversary. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a celebration. In fact, many Catholics don’t even know of its existence.
But let’s turn that sad fact into a joyous proclamation. Let’s make what Pope Francis called “the greatest pastoral document written to date” a wonderful aid to our essential mission to live and share the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Evangelii Nuntiandi St. Pope Paul taught us that “The Church is an evangeliser, but she begins by being evangelised herself” so as “to retain freshness, vigour and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel.”
And St. Pope Paul further emphasized that evangelisation must be intimately linked to social justice, development, peace and liberation. He writes with deep empathy about the enduring struggles of the world’s poor and oppressed: “famine, chronic disease, illiteracy, poverty, injustices in international relations and especially in commercial exchanges, situations of economic and cultural neocolonialism sometimes as cruel as the old political colonialism. The Church … has the duty to proclaim the liberation of millions of human beings – many of whom are her own children – the duty of assisting the birth of this liberation, of giving witness to it, of ensuring that it is complete. This is not foreign to evangelization.”
“The angel of the Lord appeared to them [shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were stuck with fear. The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.’ ”
If we really believe this, than how can we possibly keep from proclaiming this “good news of great joy” for all the people!
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.