Bp Lourdes Daniel, Nashik
How should Christians celebrate Christmas in India?
India is a multi cultural, multi language, multi traditional vast space. We, Christians are a very small community. For that very reason, we have the grace that radiates the light, a light that we received from Christ, and people acknowledge it. We are a peace loving community. The Lord comes to give the same peace as a message. We become His channel and medium to spread that peace. India is developing, but people’s quality of life is not changing, the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer. As a Christian who believes in God, Christmas for me is a time to give witness. The Lord is born to give us a new life. This new life is not just to exist but to live as He lived, a life of compassion, love, forgiveness, and this is what we are celebrating.
As a Christian we understand God in Christ, Christ is the dignity of man, and the holiness of man. I can aspire to the loftiness of the divine. The greatest revelation of Christianity is that it understands oneself and the other in Christ and confronts Christ with the person next to my door. You spoke about peace, but peace also implies justice.
Peace is justice, but the peace that the Lord has come to give is justice soaked in compassion. See the adulterous woman; the people were ready to stone her death. Jesus could not find fault with it, because it was in the law. But Jesus goes beyond the justice attained through the law. He rules that those who have sinned have no right to pass judgement on another sinner. It was like saying everyone was a sinner like her. Therefore the Lord only makes known who is sinning and what sin can do. Sin can bring disgrace. Jesus has come to save us from that disgrace. So for providing justice, first understand the context in which a person has committed a mistake or a crime. It is not the culminating act that decides what is done is right or wrong. Sin can bring misery too.
We know what happened to Sr Rani Maria, Sr Alphonsa John, and to the Jesuit priest A. T. Thomas, who were killed because of their involvement in social causes. What would you tell Indian Christians about the sufferings we may have to undergo while pursuing the advancement of peace and justice?
In the history of the Church, persecution plays very important role. Throughout the world Christians, priests, nuns are kidnapped and killed. This kind of trials and persecutions do not weaken faith; rather, they strengthen faith and bring us closer to God, because He Himself was a victim of injustice and persecution. My master has gone before me, and that gives me tremendous strength to follow my Master. I remember some years ago a priest was murdered in Bihar. His companion gave a remarkable sermon during the pryer service. He said: one Thomas died, but ten will take his place. That’s the spirit of Christ. The Church is led by the Spirit and the Lord emboldens us with the Spirit. Therefore I can speak courageously. Rani Maria was killed because she fought for the poor, for justice. And so today the Church honours her, and that inspires many people to stand for the truth. The Spirit of the Lord leads us only to the truth.
Angels sang: “Glory to God and peace to people on earth.” What is the glory Christians celebrate during Christmas?
When we say glory to God, this God we are addressing is not there somewhere high up in heaven. He is in our midst, with the poor, with the sinners, with those who are suffering. Therefore I recognize and accept that God lives with the poor. I don’t hold somebody responsible for being poor. I don’t jut sit down with them, I get up to do something for them. I speak for them, and that’s how I give glory to God. Because He is in our midst, I recognize Him in the suffering people, like Mother Teresa who took the suffering man in her hand and saw Christ in him. If we fail to recognize the Christ in our midst, in the poor, in the suffering, we cannot sincerely sing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to people on earth.”