Friday, December 30, 2016

2017: But, make it “new”

A "new" year, a "new" beginning. The beginning of a new year soothes and refreshes us all. A new year means having the possibility to forget and restart, to erase and renew, to forget, forgive and rediscover the way. ... The beginning of a new year places us at a crossroads where we learn from the past and plan a better future. 

But the illusions incorporated into our promises for a better future do not prevent us from ignoring the present reality, marked by a deep crisis that manifests in the most varied conflicts of our natures: personal, family, labor-related, economic, political, social, cultural, religious, etc. ... 

The lives of many men and women with neither sense nor direction that are reflected in higher rates of suicide, drug use, alcoholism ..., families destroyed by a wide range of circumstances, deep economic crises for which nobody seems to be responsible and that most affect the poorest of the poor, war fronts in different nations, abysmal relations with the rest of the world, a conflictive coexistence among the different groups that make up American society, etc. … These put before this nation the need for the new year to be truly novel and new. 

To preside over the newness that confronts the United States - in the face of past and present failures - Mr. Donald Trump was elected President of the government of this great nation. 

The election of the first president who has never held public office is already a novelty in our nation’s history. It is very novel if it is considered that this election takes place in a society where signs of discrimination and racial segregation persist and in which minorities continue being, and leading the lives of, minorities. 

Even though we have our highest hope in God, people have put their earthly hopes in the leaders of the people and in the good and correct management that they have over their governments. Thus, for the immediate future of American society, we place our trust and hope in the government that, starting on January 20, will be led by President-elect Donald Trump. In it, we have the hope that, as promised in the election campaign, his government will put an end to the irrational, unjust and inhuman bellicose confrontations that not only bleed the economy and the social welfare of the nation, but also the young blood of our young soldiers and that, in addition, while well-surrounded by his immediate advisors, will succeed in a national and international management of the economy that, in the short term, will return us to the prosperity for which this nation has come to be known by its citizens and for the rest of the world. 

But, we are confident that Mr. Trump’s government will have a "new", handling of the immigration issue in which all immigrants and, especially, Hispanics and other ethnic groups established in this nation, who have arrived from different continents without documentation, obtain treatment that is more dignified, more solidary, fairer and more humane and fitting for a population that has put the best of itself and its efforts into contributing to the greatness of the entire American society that he flaunts before the world. 

In the same way, the Hispanics living in this nation and in all our countries of origin expect from the incoming government better and more adequate international relations with all countries, as is required between nations that share the same planet and the same destiny to which all humanity is called: to make this world a more livable place, more fraternal and, therefore, more human. 

Upon beginning a new year, let us leave behind the bad news and let us jointly launch ourselves into the construction of more and better good news with the certainty that if the small or large crises that affect us now have as their ultimate cause a crisis of humanity, that is to say, a deep crisis in the spirit of the human being will be a process and a "humanizing" growth inwardly for each person and the emergence of new and more honest relations between men and the people that offer us a new year and a better future. 

This joy for a new year and these hopes in a new government are grounded in the faith that always invites us to renew ourselves, to leave behind the old man and build in each one of us the new man. The new year will be new to the extent that everyone: both those who participate more directly in the mission of government and also all the citizens who are building the novelty we so need with our deeds, words, behaviors and attitudes. Let us now offer a new year, a new society, a new government for a better nation and a new world. 

I wish all of you, together with your loved ones, a new, blessed and happy 2017.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas and the Holy Family

Christmas is a time of year that has its foundation in a historical-salvific event: the birth of Jesus Christ, which Christians commemorate during a liturgical time of the same name. In a materialistic society like ours, Christmas has been turned into a season of the year to sell and buy, to spend and consume, to flaunt and splurge. And within this enormous consumer traffic, the message that Christians remember, the meaning of what Christians celebrate at this time is manipulated, lost, diluted, and forgotten.

The significance that Christmas holds for the world in general and for Christians in particular is enormous. What we celebrate is the birth of JESUS OF NAZARETH, who is, for all, a model of Humanity and Divinity, because Jesus is Divine for the profoundly human.

When Christians acknowledge Jesus as God made Man, we acknowledge at the same time, the ultimate and definitive destiny to which all humanity is called: that of divinely incarnating ourselves in history and, in our daily lives, to divinely humanize ourselves. At Christmas, therefore, we celebrate the joyful and hopeful certainty that in the Birth of Jesus, God has wanted to remain forever with us, showing us in Him, the Way, the Truth and the Life to which we are all called.

The historical event of Christmas occurs in the context of a family. Among the many meanings assigned to the commemoration of the first Christmas, the value given by God to the family at the birth of Jesus is, today, important and special among us.

Today, we suffer and witness a deep crisis of humanity and humanity in all its forms. The serious problems revealed in the crisis show a more profound and definitive crisis in the very heart of the human being:  a de-humanization contrary to all that is meant and implied in the message of Christmas. But, at the same time, the serious social problems that emerge from the heart of man have their origin in a deep crisis of the family.

The list is extensive of the enormous conflicts that today attack the family model put forward on that first Christmas night and supported by the teachings of the Catholic Church in the West: 
  •  The growing generational gap between parents and children in a world that changes daily and swiftly, 
  • Rapid and easy – “express” – separations, divorces, and annulments, 
  • Infidelity in a pan-sexual society that placates and encourages it,
  • The lack of commitment in a hedonistic society that advocates for the simple, the fleeting, the ephemeral, the easy, the disposable, the purely aesthetic and apparent, 
  •  The academic and labor world that separates, distances, and disintegrates families, 
  •  Machismo and feminism,
  • The alleged scientific manipulation of God’s designs on creation and family life, 
  • Abortion, 
  • Smoking, alcohol, drugs,
  • The meaninglessness of life in a society that quickly kills the will to live while it reduces the meaning of life to the merely material and the intra-historical hiding of the transcendent vision of man, the world, and its history.
In a world that advocates for the plurality of ideas and lifestyles along with respect for individual liberties and human rights, Truth – under that pretext – should not be denied, confused, or dissolved in the middle of the sea of individuals, each small and almost always a petty pocket of truth. Every day, and especially at Christmas, it falls to the Church to announce, from the Good News that the Gospel contains for every man and woman of goodwill, that every person has the right to be born and to "grow in grace and wisdom" in the bosom of a family made up by a father, a mother and children: a family model in which the parental, filial, and fraternal love relationships are replicated and lived in a way that we Christians praise and recognize in the very bosom of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The disturbing statistics that tell us about the millions of boys and girls who try to “grow up” and “raise” themselves in dysfunctional “homes,” single-family “homes,” “surrogate” homes with grandparents, other family members, or in government institutions that try to supplement non-existent families, are an alarm about something very serious that is happening in our communities and a urgent challenge for us to evaluate and return to living the model of the Christian family suggested in the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, as never before, there is nostalgia for Nazareth:
  • Nostalgia for homes where parents and children live and live together in communion, 
  • Nostalgia for homes like Nazareth: where parents love and fulfill the will of God by loving and serving the lives of their children,
  • Homes in which children fulfill the will of God by obeying their parents, 
  • Homes that foster the construction of a world in solidarity by first living brotherly and sisterly relationships at home,
  • Homes where love and respect prevail over the ever-difficult and ever-changing circumstances of life,
  • Homes with parents dedicated to the care of their children and with children attentive and devoted to their parents,
  • Homes that are true domestic churches, providing a first church experience and a seedbed for lifelong evangelization,
  • Homes where parents and children grow in humanity by cooperating with the creative work of the God of the Bible through daily work,
  • Families that are true homes, that is, bonfires lit with love capable of heating and illuminating a world so often cold and dark.
I congratulate you during these holy days that we Christians live in memory of the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I rejoice in the joy of the world because “a child has been born to us, a child has been given to us” who is called “Emmanuel”, which means “God-with-us” and I encourage you all to spend more time in our homes, our environments, and with the great lessons, the good lessons, the sacred and eternal lessons we can learn for our family life, this Christmas and forever, from the example set by the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Talking about God in the time of Francis

Talking about God in the time of Francis

+ Fernando Chomali Garib
Archbishop of the Ssma. Concepción

Concepción, Chile – November 2016

1.  Society wants to remove God from the public spotlight

In these times, to speak of God does not come easy; it is challenging and, above all, fascinating. For some time, society has been removing God from the public spotlight.  We perceive this so clearly, across the broader fields of our social, educational and cultural lives. Society has also tried to remove God from men’s hearts by postulating that faith is a departure from our personal and social lives, and that it represents an alienation that oppresses and removes freedom. An anthropocentric view of man has supported this attempt, with its ultimate goal of well-being at any cost, and with its emphasis placed on the self-fulfillment that becomes the absolute foundation and purpose of life. Man does not achieve this self-fulfillment outside of himself or in another.  Rather, he finds it in his own subjectivity that acquires normative value. The Creator God, the only God and foundation of all that is good, has been supplanted by wants and personal desire. This true cultural misunderstanding led to the impoverishment of philosophical thought and to the ignorance of others as part of our lives, diminishing the rational and social dimension of man.

2.  The Eradication of Metaphysical Thinking

The question of the essence of things, in truth, independent of the study of the subject, is for many, a thing of the past. As a result, ethics has lost space in the cultural landscape and is limited to the idea that acts have value insofar as they are the result of autonomy, that they do not harm another and that they recall utility as a reference and maximum value to be achieved. Perhaps this is the reason why society seeks to make philosophy and theology classes disappear from the educational and cultural horizon. In this context, devoid of gnoseology and binding ethics, beauty has been losing all meaning and the results of this are clearly seen. Society in its most varied aspects has been impoverished, in a clear process of the ‘peasantification’ of human dignity and of culture. The hero, the saint, the altruistic man who looks to the heavens and acts, even to the point of giving his own life, is becoming extinct, and, at best, is considered someone worthy to applaud, but not to imitate. The man determined to build a society by taking God out of the personal and social spectrum ended up destroying himself. This is the thesis of the Second Vatican Council, which all Pontiffs have insistently made clear.

Certainly the words of Paul VI in Populorum Progressio echo: “Man can set about organizing terrestrial realities without God. But "closed off from God, they will end up being directed against man. A humanism closed off from other realities becomes inhuman."

The thousands of immigrants who die, drowning in the sea, in the sight and patience of those who have the power to prevent this, the thousands and thousands of old lonely people, abandoned and poor, that no one is willing to take charge of, who moan for a little love and are offered death as an alternative to that pain of the soul, as well as the millions of children who do not see the light of day because they simply constitute a threat, give account to this truly decadent scenario that we see daily and that challenges us.  Not to mention the large gaps that exist between the few that have more each day, and the many that have less and that remain at the mercy of others at every level. The social disenchantment we see day to day is the response to this logic of indifference and self-absorption.

3.  If there is no God, only self-referentiality is left.

This attempt to disembark God from culture began by denying the value of the religious condition of man as a properly human and social experience. At most, its value is recognized in the personal sphere, but not as a reality that can be converted into culture. When the human being loses any objective reference that guides him beyond the vicissitudes of time and space, the path is cleared and paved to begin to build the self-referent man who creates himself from his own convictions. Thus, the condition of being social, of being sexed as a man or woman, of being a being that is understood in the light of all the others, are mere remnants that, according to them, were culturally imposed, but do not necessarily conform to the reality (which is no longer given) that they feel called to impose as such. In this cultural context, the parliaments of the West ended up being mere notaries of the infinite anthropologies and ethics that swarm everywhere. If anyone postulates the existence of a reality before it is perceived by someone who understands it, this is treated harshly. With this society lost. The weakest lost most of all. The strongest won. There is the paradox. Liberty misunderstood transformed, for many, into the worst of slaveries.  It is the logical consequence of a freedom that an ultimate truth is not recognized, and less so a good that reaches beyond an individual.

This panorama was a cultivating field of caudillismos in every sphere of society and of a great discontent. Even God himself, each man draws in his own way. The important thing is that it is meaningful to me "my" meaning of what it means to be a human being. The absence of a final reference upon whom to base existence and coexistence has led to social segregation and violence as the method to resolve conflicts. Bad treatment whose worst form is directed towards women, children, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and so many other communities, account for this attempt to deny all objective truth and values that cannot be negotiated because they are in front of the same man and State. Without a metaphysical or transcendent foundation that is worthy for all and that is, above all, the final say of the interpretation of reality, truth is diluted, reason yields to violence and justice ends in revenge. Is not that the scenario that we see every day and that has acquired a true pornographic character?

4. Self-reference is built from consumption

The society that is based on the self-referential individual has caused society, at its practical core, to revolve around consumption, which is its engine, and has made the economic indexes the index to measure the development of the country. Development is understood only as economic development and personal growth is intimately linked to individual well-being. The inequality that this method of social organization brings is very silenced. The words of Paul VI in Populorum Progressio strongly echo: “We cannot allow economics to be separated from human realities, nor development from the civilization in which it takes place. What counts for us is man—each individual man, each human group, and humanity as a whole.”  Thus it is impossible to achieve social coherence because the other person is no longer part of the common project, and becomes one more in the competition, which, obviously, must be overcome. Many believe that the important thing is to arrive first, but, from our condition as brothers and members of humanity, we believe that it is better to arrive together. This competition, in practice, begins in the womb when discarding human beings who come with malformations, are the result of rape or other causes.

They, according to this way of conceiving reality, are not part of this social structure where the center is not the person, but instead is what that person can achieve for himself, or what society can bestow on him. This is understood as the lack of proportion between the requirement of rights and the fulfillment of duties. Notable in this regard is the teaching of Benedict XVI regarding the deeper meaning of solidarity as a form of knowledge and expression of being a gift called to become a gift for others.

The key to understanding human relationships today lies in utilitarianism. This doctrine has done great damage; it has left many people, especially the poor and elderly, the immigrants and the disabled, in the most absolute defenselessness. The reality of children who, for different reasons, do not live with their families, but in the homes of abandoned and lonely old people, refugees abandoned to their fate, these children live this reality.

5. Clear and unambiguous Christian testimony

Francis, the Pope, is clear about this reality. That is why he has invited us with insistence and without ambiguity to return to the foundation of the contribution made by the Catholic Church to generate a more just, fraternal and dignified society for man, every man and all men. That foundation is not power; it is not money; it is God and, specifically, His mercy shown in a unique and definitive way in Jesus Christ. The Pope seeks to return the eyes of all members of society to those who are excluded and discarded in a system for the exchange of goods and services that has not put man at the center of our social organizations. He does so from the prism of Jesus. From his gaze, the pains and anguishes of so many human beings are the consequence of a system not based on man and his constitutively spiritual nature, but on greed and ambition beyond measure that is fixed in power and money. The invitation from Francis to exchange the consumption lifestyle for one of sharing is concrete and real and those who are called in the first place to accept this call are those who profess that God became flesh in Jesus, the Christ, present, paradoxically, in the suffering. For the pope, Christian witness lived with coherence and courage has to become the theological place from which we are being called to show the world another face.

This implies a deep questioning of our behavior, especially of all who recognize that Jesus is Lord. Thus, together with the denunciation, which is certainly necessary, a horizon is opened, of the construction of the broader social framework, linked to love given, to tenderness squandered, to joy that infects, to Christian witness. This is not a key to interpreting the apostolic exhortations "The Joy of the Gospel" and "The Joy of Love". Perhaps it is not there, in the Gospel and in love; where is the mustard seed that will generate the much-longed-for civilization of love?  Said in the words of John Paul II:  “A civilization of love must be the true point of arrival for human history.” (Juan Pablo II, 3.11.1991)  Thus, Francis is clearly inviting us to take a clearer stand on our own way of life, for it is in this concrete and real practice that we will be the light that enlightens others. The Pope is asking us over and over again that our actions speak for themselves. Gestures are the most precious way to show not only that God is the foundation of our life, but also the guiding principle from which we can mend the social fabric. He has clearly begun. It is now up to each one of us to act. And with joy, hope, faith and much charity.