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Thanksgiving 2015

President's Message - Thanksgiving 2015

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Thanksgiving

 
President's Message - Thanksgiving 2015  
 
Amidst all the tragic news of bombings and mass killings a question came to mind: how many times are we told not to fear in the bible.  The popular answer in some circles is 365 times, which leads to a sentiment that we should remember this every day of the year.  However, the more scholarly sources suggest that it is only 93 times if you use the New American Standard Bible.  To me, it does not matter how many times but the context is more important.  The declaration of the arrival of Jesus by the Angels to the shepherds begins with "do not be afraid." (Luke 2:10)   At the Resurrection, the angel again repeats the message to the women, "do not be afraid." (Matthew 28:5)  To me, the significance is that in the beginning and the end of the gospel message is the same core concept - fear is the opposite of what Jesus is all about.  Fear is what takes us away from the gospel and moves us to see others as less than human-more to the point, less than beloved children of God.  It is only through love that we can answer the calling of Jesus.  
 
We certainly can view the damage that fear causes as we witness the terrorist activities.  The extremists are brought to such vile acts because of fear.  They have been convinced that western society wishes to eliminate their culture, including their religion.  They are then easily persuaded that the lives of "the other" (in this case, us) is worth less.  The killing of innocents is justified by showing the other must be treated as an object.  Unfortunately, the responses of many of us is to do likewise.  Not so much to become terrorists but to treat the other as an object.  We are encouraged to be fearful of the Muslim and even deny comfort to women and children.  This is not what we are called to be as Christians.
 
By contrast, the New Testament mentions the word "love" 221 times (NRSV).  This clearly points us in the direction of preferring love over fear.  This is no easy task in the face of all the violence that we witness in our lives today.  Just the same, it is what we are called to do.  It is what Jesus called us to do and what he lived, including his passion and death.  Jesus refused to give in to the fear and would not renounce his message of love and non-violence.  Ultimately, we as Catholic Christians believe that he was victorious over fear, violence, and even death.  This is the very heart of our faith tradition.  This is what our church is supposed to be.
 
If the rejection of fear and the embracing of love is the very heart of our faith tradition, then why is it that fear seems to be so common in our church today?  I have had conversations during this past year with Catholics from all over the world.  The questions are usually bound in the same emotion-fear.  One conversation was from a priest in Asia.  He and his colleagues were trying to take a stand against the bishops of their country.  The problem is that they were afraid of the resulting reprisals.  A group of parishioners in Louisiana were dismayed that their priest was able to take away so many things that they valued.  They were being removed from ministries and were being openly stalked by a group claiming loyalty to the priest.  Other parishioners in Texas, New Jersey, and Ohio were experiencing the same treatment and were fearful of the priest.  To me, the worst sign of all was the conversation reported to me with a couple of bishops.  The bishops acknowledged that they supported the work of ARCC but would not "go public" because they feared the reaction of the other bishops.  
 
If we are to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, then we must let go of the fear.  We cannot give in to the intimidation by priests, bishops, or even other members of the laity.  Instead, we must base everything we do on loving one another. (John 13:34)  This is the mission of ARCC at its core.  When we speak of rights we are advocating that everyone must be treated with the dignity as a beloved child of God.  While I disagree with those who wish to push us back to an earlier time in the church, I still love them.  I believe that they are simply afraid of moving toward something different.  To many, change is a scary thing.  So I should understand this as one who loves them and try to encourage them to let go of those fears.  At the same time, I am not to belittle them, or worse, objectify them.  We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  If we model that, we should believe that the Holy Spirit will bring us forward, just as Jesus believed.
 
These are challenging times for those of us at ARCC as well.  We are aware that our numbers seem to be falling.  While more people are reading our newsletter, we have fewer members.  Consequently, our resources are also falling off.  We also know that we are not reaching younger Catholics.
 
So, with full confidence, I turn to all of you.  We have not asked for anything from our readers because we consider the message so important.  However, we will not be able to continue to provide the message or the services we do to those who ask for our help if we do not increase our membership.
 
Whatever way you may help us will be appreciated.  Even if you can't provide the full amount of membership, any amount will help.  I believe in my heart of hearts that a new awakening is about to happen.  It does not matter whether or not Pope Francis can bring about any reforms.  The door has been opened; hope has been stirred; and love will win out.  Now is not the time to give up.  It is time to reject the messages of fear and raise up the message of love.
 
Peace and all that is good,
Patrick B. Edgar, DPA
President
 
p. s. I wish you all a glorious Thanksgiving.
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