This appeared in The Indian Express on December 25, 2019
The last week of the year is heralded by Christmas. At this time next week, we will be in the year 2020 which is not just a new year but the beginning of a new decade. This is a perfect week for reflection. It is a great time to look back at not just the year but in this case, the last 10 years and take stock of our own lives. Are we happy with the way we have spent the last year or decade as the case may be. Is there something we could have done differently?
We are living in interesting and intriguing times. We are being faced with many challenges in our world today – environmental issues, economic slowdown and an atmosphere of tension in the world that is being caused by focusing too much on our differences instead of our similarities.
The world of today has its challenges and risks but also its opportunities and rewards. Christmas is a good time for us to look inwards and reflect what we truly are as human beings. For while today is a day of celebration, Christmas cakes and carols, it is also the day that we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Today’s theme for this Christmas message is community and peace. The world has always had divisions and mistrust among communities. Take the example from the time of Jesus more than 2000 years ago. The Jews and Samaritans lived side by side. They were two sects of people living in Israel. They both despised each other. In fact, the Jews did not even like to utter the word ‘Samaritan’. But Jesus often taught great truths in the form of stories which are called parables.
One of these is the Parable of the Good Samaritan-
Luke 10:25-37 New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii (local currency) and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expenses you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
What makes this story even more interesting is that the Samaritans were people who were hated by the Jews of that time. They were considered so low that Israelites did not even want to speak to them. But yet, this Samaritan was the only one who actually helped. On the other hand – the priest and Levite (both respected and high ranking people amongst the Jews) refused to help. This story conveyed a deeper message that despite our prejudices or differences against certain people, we must know that there is good in everyone and sometimes it is the ones who are considered different, the ones despised, who actually end up helping you at the end and sometimes the people who you consider as your own may not.
Jesus himself was a Jew and for him to tell a story where a Samaritan was actually the ‘hero’ of the story was very meaningful as it represents how important he considered it to love, respect and help people irrespective of their religion or background.
When people do that, there will be peace.
“Peace is not the absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition of benevolence, confidence, justice.”
― Baruch Spinoza
As Spinoza said, peace is not just the absence of war but a state of mind where there is an atmosphere that makes it conducive to thrive. It is a state of mind where the creative spirit of humanity is encouraged to grow and prosper.
As Jesus said at the end of the Biblical account – “Go and do likewise.”
This statement is interesting indeed. If we take the phrase – “O God” it can be considered as the simplest communication with God. But within that phrase is encapsulated in the form of anagrams the phrases “Go Do” and the word “good”. All we really need to do to please God irrespective of your religion or belief is this – “Go Do Good.”
That’s it. It is that simple. But doing good is not only about treating yourself and others with love. Doing good means doing creative and enterprising things to make the world and all life on it better for future generations.
Doing good means making new inventions, new discoveries, creating art in any form, creating businesses, creating jobs, creating education and creating a wholesome environment. It is not enough for us to just sit and think good thoughts – but to “go DO good”.
“Go and do likewise,” said Jesus. Action is important and so is the type of action. We must do good in every way we can in a manner that will benefit the world.
Christmas 2019 is a perfect time to reflect on our past, present and future. Where do we want our world to be 10 years from now in the year 2030? Think about it and work towards that goal. Each one of us has the potential to be a spark of goodness that will make the world a better place.
But take this moment to let this thought sink in. Enjoy the Christmas spirit of love, joy and universal peace. Merry Christmas and wishing you a Happy new year 2020 and a happy new decade of the 2020s.