Goodwill to All
All social reform is based on need. Moses, Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, and Nelson Mandela, for example, are remembered in history because they took a stand against oppression, each in his or her own way. There was an urgency to address the inequities and blindness being perpetuated in the societies that they called home.
So, too, it was with Jesus. He was born into a region that was occupied by a foreign power that ruled through military enforcement. This subjugation required the citizens to acquiesce to the whims of the soldiers wielding the authority. Picture it. It is not unlike many countries today where war is the norm, and the people have little freedom. When we take Jesus out of context, we fail to understand his significance. He was a revolutionary who took a stand against the injustices of his time. He was martyred for the cause.
What shall we say now? What prophet is needed to address the us against them mentality, rampant consumerism, depersonalization, loneliness, poverty, aggression, and social inequities of our time? Jesus is still relevant today. What would happen if the good news he preached was not understood through the sterile lens of insurance for the afterlife? What if we truly believed his primary teaching that love is the answer to all of life's problems?
Would it make us willing to share resources so that education and health care would be provided for everyone free-of-charge? Jesus told a startling story about an employer who gave equal wages to all who worked, regardless of how long they labored. It is a radical, disturbing idea, like education and health care available through the generosity of all people, not with the prerequisite of earning it through ability to pay.
Would our belief in the good news dissolve the rhetoric that self-righteously perpetuates the narrative that we have to protect ourselves against them? In what miraculous way might our society be transformed if we actually loved our neighbors as ourselves? What if we treated them like the Samaritan cared for the downcast stranger? That is how Jesus answered the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Samaritans and Jews didn't mix. What if we saw the hated them as our neighbors today?
And what would the world be like if we forgave one another for our character flaws and ceased to point them out to one another in regular conversation and in the media? What if love covered a multitude of sins instead of exposed them? Scandalous! It would be like the scandal created by a father who completely forgave his wayward son of squandering his inheritance on wild partying.
In this new year, let us commit to living out these glad tidings of peace on earth and goodwill to all. Jesus is still relevant today, and his gospel is not tame. It is revolutionary! May we open our eyes to see the world anew. May we unite in a campaign of solidarity with the materially poor and the poor in spirit, a campaign that doesn't seek out the poor somewhere else, but recognizes them in our everyday lives and responds to their needs with kindness and compassion. May this radical, revolutionary love start with ourselves.