A great blessing came into the world over 2,000 years ago. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth. He was a humble leader, prophetic, articulate and a prodigy with a profound compassionate understanding of the sick, poor and oppressed. He sought equality and a society, or kingdom, with no super rich, no dire poor and with fairness, social justice, love and compassion for all. That is what he taught, lived for and was killed for. He was a friend to all. He was loved greatly by the poor, the fisher folks, the farmers and craftspeople, women and children. But the rich, the elite rulers, religious and civil leaders were not pleased with him or his message. He was not silent about the injustice and hypocrisy that surrounded him. He spoke out against the oppressors with sharp words of rebuke. He was challenged, spied upon, reported to the authorities, threatened, criticized, wrongly accused and then tortured and executed. He forgave them all. He left behind a Meal of Friendship for us to remember him by. What an extraordinary life he lived. He lifted up the spirits of the poor with encouragement and hope and gave them their true value and dignity as people of all races and religions and those without and for us in the whole world.
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He taught that we have inalienable rights, deserving of profound respect and equality. He stood in solidarity with the poor, and with us, a poor man himself, rejected by the innkeepers and then born in an outhouse with the burden of poverty, stale food, the smell of animals and unwashed clothes. His parents were threatened by the tyrant and became refugees, fled Bethlehem, became migrants and travelled on foot to Egypt, a feat that is impossible today. When he became a man, he had an exhilarating message of Good News, that the poor had rights to a better, more just life where there was fairness and equality for all, where women were honored and respected and would overcome evil, where children were the most important of all, where the poor would, with justice, inherit what was rightfully theirs. The wrongdoers and abusers would be held accountable, called to confess and admit their crimes, repent and accept their penance and let justice be done. The workers would have fair wages and benefits and the elite rich and powerful would be invited to change their ways and attitudes and would be challenged to ask forgiveness, to pay restitution, like Zacharias, four times what he had stolen by his corrupt ways. They could help bring social justice or continue in their corrupt ways and be held accountable and sent away empty. In a society where justice prevailed, the people would have their voice and vote and rule themselves through just leaders. That is the Good News that everyone had a right to dignity, justice, equality, the truth, a happy life and a right to work and struggle for it without discrimination, racism or exclusion. This is the message of Jesus of Nazareth, his vision. His mission of 2,000 years ago is still a message calling us to friendship and inviting us to live the values that have the power to change each of us and society if accepted and practiced. This is the Good News that is to be proclaimed from the housetops and still stands today, calling all to embrace and live life in the spirit that he brought into the world. That powerful message of love, justice, compassion, non-violence and freedom in community is mostly unheeded, ignored and forgotten. Most times, the Church’s ministers forget the vital message that is lost in a maze of unexplained rites and rituals and secular interests. The true believers are ready to die living and implementing them. Without them, there is dire poverty, chaos, violence, crimes against humanity, war crimes and hundreds of thousands killed. In the challenging world of today, that same strong hope and belief encourage many people to believe that goodness will overcome evil, that justice will prevail and freedom from oppression will come to be. It is hope that burns bright and the struggle for justice goes on all fronts. People are being enlightened by truth against lies and deception. Great good is being done daily. Hundreds of thousands are being saved and helped. Human rights workers suffer the vindictive brutality of the tyrants as they suffer injustice and struggle against oppression. They stand up and speak out when they are told to kneel down and remain silent. They are strong when they are insulted and diminished. They risk all for others. They serve the poor without seeking a reward. They live lives of integrity and wisdom. The power of compassion and caring will triumph. Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.