I hope everyone had a blessed and merry Christmas day yesterday.
In the secular, commercial world, Christmas is over. Now is the time for all those after Christmas sales that the retailers have. It's time to clear out our Christmas stock and get ready for Valentine's Day, even though Valentine's Day is over a month and 7 weeks away.
No, Christmas is not just a day, but a (whole) season. During Advent, we have spent over 4 weeks preparing for Jesus to come into the world. When he came into the world, he humbled himself and took on our human nature, being born of a virgin, Mary, Mater Dei (the mother of God). He did this because he loves us, "For God so loved the world, as to give his only
begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may
have life everlasting".
[John 3:16] Now that he has come into the world, it is our duty to spread the Christmas message that today, a savior has been born for us.
And now on to the feast day of my patron saint, Saint Stephen. St. Stephen was a deacon who was active in the church during the first century. He was the first martyr, the first of those who suffered at the hands of pagan Rome for his belief in Christianity and in Jesus Christ. Now, granted, it takes guts to stand up for one's faith, even if it means martyrdom. As Christians, we are all called to profess our faith, even if it's unpopular. The early church martyrs understood this and were willing to stand up for the faith rather than give in to the commands of the oppressor, even though it meant death for all of them.
Now, I do realize that some of you out there think that all of this martyrdom stuff is old and done with. Well, at any time in history, there have been those, connected with the State, who persecute Christians for upholding the faith. It happened with the first Christians at the hands of pagan Rome. It happened in England when King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church to establish the Anglican Church. It happened in Soviet Russia to Orthodox Christians (and Eastern Catholics) at the hands of Stalin. It happened in Nazi Germany because the Catholics and other Christians stood up to Hitler. Today, it is happening in China, where those not loyal to the state Catholic Church have been forced underground. Here in America, we have the freedom to worship as we choose to, with no interference from the government. However, the idea of separation of Church and State has 2 ends. One ends says that the government cannot establish a religion and your choice of religion cannot disqualify you from activity in the public square. Then, we have the other end, which says that the government can't interfere with your religion and how you practice it. These days, we have too many people that, while they may not agree with Christian traditions and celebrations in public, are easily "offended" by the practice of the Christian faith in public and have gone to the courts to stop them, which have ordered that these Christians NOT carry out their traditions and religious practices in public. A good example is the ever popular Nativity scene. Various judges here in the US have said that those people cannot put up the Nativity scene because it might "offend" non-Christians. A more mature and charitable approach by those people that are "offended" is to simply ignore it, but don't rain in on someone else's parade just because you don't agree with it.
In today's gospel reading, Jesus says "Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans." [Matthew 10:17-18] While Catholics and other Christians are not physically persecuted in America today, other methods of persecution are happening today such as failure of the government to uphold legal measures such as the Defense of Marriage Act and the conscience clause of the health care law. With the health care law, there is a religious exemption which says that a religious institution can be waived. However, this is only the case if the institution only serves a majority of people which hold the same beliefs as the institution. This is a problem for the Catholic Church (and other non-Catholic institutions like them) because the Catholic Church provides care no matter who or what you are. This law means that these institutions only serve Catholics or be penalized. With the conscience clause, a health care worker does not have to do a procedure if it violates his or her morals and religious beliefs. Failure to uphold this means that the health care worker has to take part in the procedure or risk losing their job. This cannot be tolerated.
As we go in our daily lives, let us bring the joy and the message of Christmas into everything we do. In today's gospel reading, Jesus also says that "You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved." [Matthew 10:22] May God grant us the courage to be ready to profess and defend the faith, no matter what the circumstances are. May you all have a Merry and Blessed Christmas season this year.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them in the comment box below, or you can send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome any and all thoughts on the subject. You can also follow me on twitter as well (username is @rctechgeek).