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January 15, 2019

12/27/2018 12:09:00 PM
Christmas 2018

The birthday of a Jewish child is called Christmas Day. The child, Jesus, born in poverty, grew to manhood in what is now Israel. Little is known about him until he reached approximately the age of 30.
Then he left home and, with a group of followers, began to emphasize compassion and kindness, an end to slavery and exploitation of nature and humanity. Four accounts of his life, though with non-essential variations, are the source of our knowledge about Jesus.
Not all his hearers accepted his teaching, especially the Romans who occupied Israel and executed by crucifixion those suspected of disloyalty – including, as it happened, Jesus.
Over two billion people accept the teaching of Jesus, which seeks to develop unity and peace with other religions. The Jewish scholars Douglas Knight and Amy Jill-Levine suggest that, in comparing Christianity and Judaism, “there is no personality shift between the testaments.” Jews and Moslems do not accept the divinity attributed to Jesus in the phrase “he was a true God and a true man.”
In the fourth century an English scholar, Anselm, interpreted the death of Jesus for humanity as an apology to God for human wrongdoing and this became common faith: “Saved by Jesus.” Today there is a radical change in our understanding of the life of Jesus. A recent pope, Benedict XVI, wrote, “Many devotional texts actually force one to think that Christian faith in the Cross imagines a God whose unrelenting righteousness demanded a human sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus. One turns away in horror from a righteousness whose sinister wrath makes the message of love ‘incredible.’”
The Jewish prophets claimed to speak in the name of God. Jesus called us to believe God is not a judge but essentially Mercy and Love.
The great challenge to faith in Jesus is to believe that cruelty and evil did not have victory over Jesus. His appearance after death makes Jesus unique, a challenge, a consolation, a hope, an attitude, a light in the darkness that is death. In a divided world the Jewish prophet Malachi echoes the message of Jesus: “Have we not all one Father? Has not the one God created us? Why then do we break faith with each other?” [Malachi 2:10]
Fr. William Treacy

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