(Click here for readings)
When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age. He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi…the son of Adam, the son of God.
Generations do matter, and our ancestors new that better than we do.
I will never forget our tour guide even if I have forgotten how to spell his name. His name is Bader Rabbit and I think that is how it is spelled. Bader is a well educated and eloquent Christian man who lives in a conflict area. He holds no passport because he technically belongs to no country. And yet, this man reminded us, in a very kind and gentle way, that one culture is not necessarily better than another. With great humility, he said, “They are just different.” In Middle Eastern countries, tradition is very important; it is everything. I couldn’t agree more. Tradition is identity and your identity is everything! He then told us that a young man in the Middle East would never call an older man by his first name. If he had a friend named Benjamin, and saw his friend’s dad walking down the street, he would say, “Good morning, Father of Benjamin.”
We were amazed to hear from our tour guide that his very young children walk alone to school every day. It takes them about a half-hour to an hour to get to school. I could see on some of our moms a look of shock and horror. Our tour guide told us not to be shocked since everyone in his town knows each other. They know his children and his children know them.
I hate to say this, but while I was preparing to celebrate Mass at one holy site, a priest, from a European country, came up to me and said to me, “These people [Arabs] still live in the Middle Ages.” I wasn’t sure if he was giving them a complement or not, but if I were an Arab (Arabs may be Christian or Muslim) I would have considered his comment a compliment. Why? Because a way of life does not expire with time but rather with philosophy. Or as G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century.”
I sometimes think that I was born in the wrong era. But then again, I’ve matured to believe that I was born in the wrong world! That’s another reason why I became a priest! It took a while, but I finally got it! I finally understood that I was not supposed to feel comfortable in this world. After all, it is not a perfect world; it’s actually a fallen one, and I soon discovered that all those who try to feel comfortable in this world end up hitting the back of their head and getting amnesia!
How should I live in this world? What should be my attitude? I think the best way to answer this question would be with a spirit of gratitude and indebtedness. I must acknowledge that I have received a lot. I must also acknowledge that I owe a lot! Those who break with tradition, with culture, with their identity live with a theory that everything in the past was bad. It is almost as bad as those who live with a theory that everything in the past was good, for it becomes an orgy of everything that is bad.
As the Arab world becomes more Muslim and the West becomes more decadent, I think we need to ask ourselves: Who are we? What is our tradition? What is our identity? Who do I owe myself to?
In the United States, we have a tendency to think too much in the present, and not enough in the past and future. No wonder why we blame our parents for everything and our children end up doing the same to us! I fear for our children, that they will have to fight in cultural wars that we could have prevented or live in twisted, broken and distorted families that we could have avoided. You see, we are connected to our past and future, even if we are dead.
Jesus is connected to his past. Even though He is forever the son of God, He remains a faithful son of David, the son of Adam. He does not break with his lowly humanity as He ascends to His Father’s glory! He is truly the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is the perennial modern man who does not do away with His heavenly Father’s traditions. In fact, if anything, the Lord prefers and preserves the more ancient laws and traditions over the more trendy ones. Time has no effect on the timeless. His truth is forever the same today, yesterday and forever.
Who do you think you are? Who would you like to be? Hopefully, your answer takes into account your sinful ways, your family name and the West’s once Christian Way.