Imagining a better world for the New Year

Fireworks explode over the Sydney Opera House Jan. 1 to usher in the New Year in Australia. (CNS/Jason Reed, Reuters)
Fireworks explode over the Sydney Opera House Jan. 1 to usher in the New Year in Australia. (CNS/Jason Reed, Reuters)

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The world is a wonderful place. Our God is so good in giving it to us. But to a large extent, we have not taken good care of it, nor of each other.

We have polluted the water, fouled the air and are dangerously changing the climate.

The breakdown of the family, the redefining of traditional marriage, global poverty, hunger, homelessness, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, the arms trade, nuclear weapons, astronomical military budgets, human trafficking, corporate greed, murder and the mass murder of war are also among the critical illnesses humanity has inflicted upon itself.

But it doesn't have to be this way!

We don't need to stumble around and die in darkness. For God entered onto the human stage to show us that he is the light of the world. For as the prophet Isaiah predicted, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." (Isaiah 9:2) With humble and trusting hearts, we can be the very people who walk out of the darkness into the light of Christ Jesus.

God entered into the world not as the warrior Messiah the Jews were expecting, but as a defenseless, gentle, innocent baby.

Who would have imagined that the mighty one, the all-powerful one, would personally come himself -- and as an infant?

And who would have imagined he would teach us that the Kingdom of God -- the only kingdom worth living and dying for -- comes to us not by the accumulation of wealth, not by powerful militaries, not by domination, and not by our will, but rather by trusting and living out God's will -- of social justice, a fair sharing of the earth's resources, peaceful nonviolence, dialogue, solidarity, compassion, forgiveness and love for all.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Since the Lord's thoughts and ways are so very different and better from human thoughts and ways, true disciples must be countercultural. We must swim upstream against the often evil currents of society. We must rock the boat!

The famous American peace activist, Jesuit Fr. Daniel Berrigan, has warned: Beware! Beware! Or the culture will swallow you whole! It's easy to be swallowed whole and drowned by our culture. It is a kind of a narcotic.

Therefore, we must be countercultural. But being countercultural is not socially acceptable.

In many ways our culture gives us the message, "Don't rock the boat. Don't challenge the system."

That message -- promoted by the vast majority of the economically and politically powerful -- is continually transmitted through a myriad of ways to numb the rest of us into submission.

Our culture encourages us to accept the status quo, to be quiet, to leave things the way they are.

But genuine followers of the Prince of Peace, the God of life, the Lord of the poor and vulnerable cannot be quiet, cannot leave evil the way it is.

The late "Servant of God" Dorothy Day, who was a convert, pacifist, and co-founder of the Catholic Worker ministry for the homeless said, "We must cry out against injustice or by our silence consent to it. If we keep silent, the very stones of the street will cry out."

Filled with a fresh Christmas rebirth of our Lord Jesus within our hearts, may we take his loving, peaceful and joyful presence out into our hurting world this New Year, and courageously challenge the culture of greed, war and death!

Let us imagine during 2016 a better world where all God's people, and all of God's creation, are respected, protected and cherished.

[Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, "Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century," has been well-received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, Calif., to Baltimore. His email address is]

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