Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year Resolution

Fr. Shay Cullen

New Year resolutions were a regular part of my childhood. We were encouraged by our parents to make a new, bright start and promised to study harder, pray more, eat our vegetables and do our chores cheerfully. It was good training. This year, I promise to pray and work harder for justice, write better, promote human rights more effectively and expand the capacity of the home for the children rescued from traffickers, abusers, sex slavery and brothels and persuade many others to join the work.

I resolve to improve our Preda Fair Trade projects to help create more jobs and alleviate poverty. The recession has caused a big reduction in the sales of our crafts and recycled bags. But with the Preda Fair Trade team, I promise to promote a "Bag for Life,” a bag for good. This is a quality shopping bag to replace plastic shopping bags and create work for dozens of village-based bag makers.

There can be no better way to meet the New Year courageously than to revisit the source of our Christian faith, Jesus of Nazareth and His powerful inspiring life and wise teaching. These values we believe in have to be practiced and flow into practical action for the homeless, the hungry, the marginalized and the abused people for whom Jesus died.

This past Christmas at the Preda children's home, we had family meetings, a spiritual retreat and Christmas parties and gift giving for the parents of the 56 children in our care that were abducted, trafficked and abused and then rescued.

During the retreat, they said they rarely attend their parish mass and do not understand it. They are too poor and ashamed of their tattered clothes to be seen with the well dressed in the big parish church. Besides, getting food is their daily struggle to survive at all cost. Their greatest hope is that their children could live someday better than they themselves live.

They were excited to participate in the Mass especially when it was explained to them that Jesus said it was to be done in memory of Him and of all He had done to make the world a better place for them. They heard that He took His uncompromising stand with the poor and for all of us, but especially for the downtrodden, the sick and the throwaway people. He risked Himself by demanding that all human rights and dignity be recognized and this angered the authorities who claimed He was a subversive and that it would be better that He die rather than they loose their power and influence.

Two thousand years ago there were few spiritual leaders teaching a life of total self-giving for the poor, the outcasts, the unknowns by which the world would be transformed and we would all be saved from evil oppression and disaster. The total self-sacrificing love Jesus taught and practiced was new to humankind. There is no greater love than to give your life for your friends, and you all are my friends, Jesus told His disciples.

He came to us as a thoughtful, compassionate, consoling person - the Son of God no less. He did nothing but good and spoke out against hypocrisy and injustice. He was reviled, tortured, jailed and executed for championing the rights of the poor, the homeless, and the sick. He wanted them to be lifted from the mire of poverty and degradation and be freed from the corrupt oppressors that crush and abuse them and their children.

The parents and the children listened to this good news and smiled and were happy to realize that they were precious, important and of immense value and not unwanted eyesores, wretched of the earth and a blight on society. They learned that Jesus wants them to enjoy a life dignity and prosperity together in God's Family - that ought to be our mission for 2010.

To help others enjoy of life of dignity, please contact preda@info.com.ph, preda@preda.org. To read more, please go to www.preda.org.

Fr. Shay Cullen may be reached at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines. E-mail: preda@info.com.ph

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