THE recent significant reports by The Catholic Leader of the stem cell bill, the Anti-Discrimination Bill amendments and the Catholic schools principals’ conference findings on the changing role of their schools in the ongoing life of the Church constitute a ‘gospel’ for Christmas in their own right that parallels the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke.
Matthew’s nativity story sets up his portrayal of Jesus as a new Moses and a Messiah figure as only Jews would be attracted to. Luke, on the other hand, has a more universal message of a Jesus born in poverty with a future mission on behalf of the poor.
The four Gospels themselves seem more concerned with Jesus’ challenge to other Jews. It seems to be taken for granted that the Romans are so entrenched in their denial of the value of the Jewish faith that Jesus directs his mission to reforming the leaders of the Jewish faith who are failing in their duty as leaders.
Even Luke’s book of the Acts of the Apostles seems to focus on evangelising Jews with Rome as an unavoidable backdrop.
The biting satire of the movie The Life of Brian used the technique of a ‘parallel’ life to that of Jesus in the character of ‘Brian’ to point out the failings of many so-called religious people. The opening scene of that movie witnessed how the Three Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Brian instead of to the Christ-child in the adjoining stable. That may appear to be blasphemous but in the context of the movie it was about allowing Christian beliefs to be scrutinised against a secular world view.
It is really only in chapter 17-18 of the Book of the Apocalypse at the conclusion of the New Testament that there is a direct, if veiled, message of condemnation against the Roman Empire itself.
The nativity stories in the Gospels did not attempt to engage the wider world but engaged people of the Jewish faith. The secular world remained a parallel world beyond hope and therefore beyond concern. The New Testament’s nativity is an account that begins an eventual melding of those worlds into a common world.
The reports in The Leader may indicate that we live at a time where that melding is breaking down and we are returning to a society more akin to that in which the nativity stories were composed. That was a world of necessary multiculturalism and enforced tolerance given Rome’s power.
Let’s hope that this Christmas is part of a process of tolerance and multiculturalism that is embraced by all parties out of mutual respect and not out of enforced secularism.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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