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Wednesday, March 1, 2000

The Year of Jubilee

This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you.
Leviticus 25:11
The year 2000 is special not only because of the Y2K bug, but most specially because it marks the beginning of the new century and millennium. So should we be celebrating or should we be worried?
A few days ago, I was very concerned with what was happening in society. I see that in the US and Canada, there is a move to subtly persecute Christians. Teaching against contraception, abortion and alternate lifestyles is branded as a violation of human rights of those affected. Yet, the attacks on the Church and Christians is not a violation of the rights of Christians. The national magazine in Canada (McLean's) aims to discredit Christianity by calling it a myth.
We see a decrease in attendance in churches across the richer countries. A lot of churches close. For other communities, leaders adapt their teachings to make them more palatable to so called special interest groups. I believe that this eventually causes more people to move out of their community than join it.
Add to these are the natural and man-made disasters. Do we have something to look forward to?
As I mentioned, this really concerned me a lot. But praise God, I read the Pope's book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” and one thing stuck in my mind. “Fear Not!” Indeed, as I look at it, there is nothing to fear despite all these things that are happening.
“Fear Not!” This was the command of Jesus. It is not an advice but it is a command to us who believe. True, society is moving away from Christ. But there is a thirst for something spiritual. Added to this are developments in technology.
When used for good, the internet is a powerful tool to fulfill the command of Christ to preach the good news to the world. Already we see a lot of websites that contain treasures like documents from the Church councils, letters of the Church Fathers. Indeed, information for research is available literally at the tip of our hands.
More people are turning their lives to Christ not only in Christian countries but in traditionally non-Christian countries and ex-Communist countries. (I was surprised to find out that the country that sent out the most missionaries is South Korea which is not predominantly Christian!)
Converts from these countries have a deeper understanding of their faith mainly because of the persecutions and sufferings they experienced in previous years. Quite surprisingly also, it is people from these countries that migrate to the richer countries and make the Church grow. Proof of this is that despite the closure of churches in Canada, the Archdiocese of Vancouver is setting up four new parishes at the cost of 3-5 million CAD each! According to the Archbishop, this is due to the influx of migrants from Asia and East Europe. But I personally believe that this is also because of his uncompromising stand in proclaiming the gospel despite the persecutions he faced.
Another thing that looks very hopeful is the initiative of the Pope to be reconciled with the other churches. Already, there has been moves to reconcile with the Eastern Churches. A few months ago, the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church issued a joint statement on salvation by grace. The Vatican has already set up an embassy in Israel.
For me then, the new year marks the start of years of jubilee. These years will be years of freeing people from their slavery of sin. It will be years of renewed and more powerful relationship with our Lord. It will mark the beginning of a new springtime where the good news is proclaimed from “Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
May the Lord bless us all and may he continue to deepen our love for him for the glory of his name.

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