Christmas truly has become part of the World Culture. Along with Christians, people of all other religions, of no religion and of all cultures celebrate Christmas. The Bible portrays the birth of Jesus taking place in the humblest of circumstances. There was no fanfare nor pomp and glory, initially welcomed by his carpenter father, his mother, a lowly maid and illiterate shepherds. This is how Jesus lived all along.
His message was 'Blessed are the Poor, for such is the Kingdom of God.' He called upon the rich to share their belongings with the poor. His disciples are to live in poverty, a moving example of which is St. Mother Teresa and Pope Francis along with so many unsung heroes.
Karl Marx dismissed religion as the opium of the people. Religion, according to him, is an illusion that distracts from the formidable challenges of the harsh realities of life. He was familiar with religion in Europe where he lived. He was familiar with Christianity. So his critique of religion was an attack on the religion founded by Jesus. But for Jesus, religion is the hope of the poor, not an opium for them. Jesus sought to give spiritual strength to the poor and all.
Jesus' whole life of suffering, disappointments, pain, and agony was anything but indulging in opium.
Jesus said that He was appointed:
'To preach the Gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.'
This Christmas comes to us with a stirring call to work for the welfare of the poor, the needy, the suffering, the marginalised and the oppressed. In the present-day globalisation, so many of us possess so many varieties of resources and riches: intellectual, professional, spiritual, psychological, social, cultural and economic. These cannot be used exclusively for oneself. A portion of these has to be shared with others.
Let poverty be understood not just economically. Poverty means any kind of lack, want, deprivation, need and suffering.
The message of Jesus demands that power and authority should be used for the community, and especially for the downtrodden and the poor.
I wish you all a Happy Christmas!
Rt Rev Thomas Dabre
Bishop of Poona