Christmas and New Year Message
Dec, 8, 2003
To all the Faithful of Tokyo Archdiocese.
Congratulations on the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Best Wishes for the New Year. At the beginning of the New Year, we pray that there will be peace in the world and that you will be blessed with health and happiness.
This year is the 59th year since the end of the Second World War and next year will be the 60th. During these 60 years, we Japanese have risen from poverty and ruins, making every effort in taking the path of economic development within the world of nations. This has resulted in high economic growth and advanced nation status.
This economic growth has been unequaled in Japan’s history. However the sacrifices made to achieve this have not been small. At the beginning of the 90’s, economic growth became stagnant and up until today economic recession has hung like a black cloud over Japanese society. This experience of fast economic growth, and subsequent economic stagnation and bewilderment, has produced a dark shadow within our hearts.
The policy of fast economic growth has meant making economic values the priority over other values. This has resulted in the money is everything mentality capturing the hearts and minds of people. If you have no money, nothing is possible; if you have money, everything is possible: this kind of thinking has become prevalent in our society. To profit from this economic growth, people have had to sacrifice the joys of family life and the warmth of local communities. Economic prioritization and consumerism has resulted in population concentration in the major cities, the weakening of local community and familial bonds, a lessening of person to person relationships, and increasing competition and bureaucracy.
In the current situation, many people have deep anxiety about their future and are suffering these anxieties alone. The Japanese now has the longest average lifespan in the world, but the annual suicide rate continues to rise and in these past few years has surpassed 30,000 people. Many people are suffering from various emotional and mental problems, such as emotional disorder, addictions, depression and domestic violence. We must acknowledge that present day Japanese society is a ‘sick society’.
As a ‘Pilgrim Church’ traveling in the world, we have not been able to avoid the baneful influences described above. We Christians who are meant to love our neighbors as ourselves, to treasure the heart above possessions, have finally lost out to the prevailing currents of economic prioritization. I think we really need to reflect on how we have sought security and rich lifestyles for ourselves, losing sight of more important things.
Jesus said ‘store up riches for yourselves in heaven’ for ‘you cannot serve both God and money.’ Mat 6・20, 24 We pray everyday ‘may your Kingdom come’. We cannot let riches rule in our hearts. We must place these and all things under the rule of God. Jesus also said ‘You have received without paying, so give without being paid.’ Mat 10・8
We as the church have been entrusted with the many goods of the earth. We need to ask ourselves, ‘How are we using the goods of this earth? How are we responding to the expectations of God? How good are we at following in the way of Christ?’ The Church confessed at the Second Vatican Council the following.
‘Today, as well, the Church is not blind to the discrepancy between the message it proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted.’ Vatican Council II: Constitutions 43 That is the reason why we must strive to lessen the discrepancy as much as we can.
Both as individuals and as Church, incorporating all the faithful including bishops, priests and religious, we are required to prayerfully and sincerely respond to the following questions. How are we making use of the ‘goods’ that have been entrusted to us? And how does this align with the will of God? For this we need to thoroughly embrace within our hearts these words of scripture. ‘You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly.’ 2 Corinthians 9・7
We pray that the Lord our God, through the sending of the Holy Spirit, will continuously renew our Pilgrim Church on earth, and that each one of us will be filled with a spirit of renewal.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
8th Dec. 2003 Feast day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Archibishop of Tokyo
Peter Okada Takeo