Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Be Good and Believe
When I was young Christmas was a magical time of hope and wonder. The gifts were exciting of course, but they weren’t the whole show. What was more important was the sense of heaven being close, of Santa Claus descending from the ethers and bestowing his literal presence upon this earth. Even then I grasped that he was a real and eternal being.
Santa Claus is a Dutch or German derivative for “St. Nicholas,” a saint who lived in the fifth century. He was what the Christian world calls a wonderworker – someone capable of miracles in his own lifetime and even thereafter. His tomb in Bari Italy has been producing copious amounts of “Holy Myro” ever since he was laid to rest seventeen centuries ago. This sweet smelling fluid (thus the name, holy myrrh), which has brought healing to untold numbers of people, was analyzed by scientists at the University of Bari and confirmed to originate from the saint’s relics.
In spite of such evidence of the reality of sanctity, the world steals our faith in eternity. What is "Christmas" now for most people – adults and children alike - but a time of trouble and perplexity. We feel required to buy things no one really needs and do things no one really wants to do, because the celebration is all about THIS WORLD.
A good example of this is the ad that appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the DC Metro showing a shrugging Santa (as though Santa could be black and female) with the words, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake.”
The problem is that if there really IS nothing but this material world, then there really is no reason to be good, or even to endure life at all with its many difficulties.
Unfortunately, the typical reaction to such a message is not that it is a flawed and incomplete conception of the cosmos, but rather an assault on someone’s personal faith – that faith also being essentially materialistic. For instance, Patti Maquire Armstrong, author of Catholic Truths for our Children, wrote in response to these ads that her faith “is about our Daddy in the Sky loving us and waiting for us to be with Him in Heaven one day.”
God lives in the sky? The Scriptures are at pains to convey God as eternal, omniscient, spirit and love. But the contemporary definition of God as a physical entity residing somewhere in the material universe is common among people of many denominations.
Tim LaHaye, author of the popular “Left Behind” series of books and movies, says in Revelation Unveiled that “Somewhere, high in the heavens, out in the universe, a throne is set, which is the throne of God . . . Although the heavens are filled with stars wherever the telescope can reach, it seems that behind the North Star there is an empty space. For that reason it has been suggested that this could be the third heaven, the heaven of God, where His throne is.”
Children prefer to believe that God lives not far away in some remote corner of the cosmos, but here now – that he is invisibly present as a spiritual reality. His world is populated by saints such as St. Nicholas as well as angels and beings of great beauty and power whose presences can be felt and experienced.
Children also believe this other world can be reached not after death (if we’ve been “good”), but whenever we are able to find the way back to authentic childlike faith.
Posted by DEE at 7:15 AM