At Christ­mas we re­mem­ber how to be kind, car­ing and loving

Bray People - - OPINION - Fr Brian Whe­lan

THE fi­nal in­stal­ment in the three- part ‘Hob­bit’ film se­ries was re­leased in Ire­land in the past cou­ple of weeks, bring­ing to a con­clu­sion the pre­quel to the Lord of the Rings tril­ogy. One of the cen­tral themes of JRR Tolkein’ s 1937 chil­dren’s book is the over­com­ing of greed and self­ish­ness, and in this Christ­mas week it’s a theme that cer­tainly strikes a chord with all of us, even though we some­times fall short of its ideal.

At the be­gin­ning of the tale, in the first film of the se­ries ‘ The Hob­bit: An Un­ex­pected Ad­ven­ture’, we met Gan­dalf the pow­er­ful and kindly wizard. He came to ask young Bilbo Bag­gins to ac­com­pany thir­teen dwarfs on an epic ad­ven­ture to the Lonely Moun­tain - the “Promised Land” of the dwarfs which had been over­taken by the dragon Smaug. Bilbo cer­tainly didn’t want to leave his com­fort­able house in the ‘Shire’ to go off on an ad­ven­ture with th­ese un­known dwarfs, but he ul­ti­mately de­cides to join them mostly be­cause he takes pity on their home­less­ness.

Be­cause Bilbo has a com­pas­sion­ate heart and gen­er­ous spirit - one that Gan­dalf saw in him be­fore he saw it him­self - and whether it is fac­ing off against the dragon Smaug, or any form of trolls, gob­lins, or orcs, Gan­dalf chooses to place his trust in lit­tle peo­ple like Bilbo in­stead of wizards, elves, or kings.

In that first film Gan­dalf ex­plains his decision to choose an in­signif­i­cant hob­bit called Bilbo for this task say­ing: “Saru­man be­lieves it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small every­day deeds of or­di­nary folk that keep the dark­ness at bay: small acts of kind­ness and love”.

Too of­ten, I be­lieve that we also think as Saru­man does. We tend to put our faith in seem­ingly im­por­tant peo­ple to solve all our prob­lems - politi­cians, celebri­ties, me­dia fig­ures, and house­hold names. We bet on them to fix our econ­omy, get rid of crime and poverty, and bring peace and hap­pi­ness to our world. And most of­ten, they don’t de­liver. Maybe it’s time to think as Gan­dalf does, and to put our faith in the gifts God has given to us, rather than wait­ing for some greater power on earth to solve ev­ery­thing for us. It seems to me that, like Gan­dalf, God puts his faith in or­di­nary folk.

In the Christ­mas story this is borne out so clearly. God trusted the sal­va­tion of hu­man­ity to a baby born in a sta­ble in Beth­le­hem, who grew to be a man that lived his whole life in poverty, who walked up and down the un­marked roads of a for­got­ten Ro­man prov­ince, and who died the death of a for­saken crim­i­nal. God didn’t trust in the great pow­ers like kings, em­per­ors, or high priests for the task of re­demp­tion - but in the simplicity and or­di­nary life of a Galilean peas­ant.

And God con­tin­ues to put his faith in or­di­nary folk to­day. The most won­der­ful thing about Christ­mas is that we re­mem­ber how to be kind, we re­mem­ber how to be car­ing and loving, and we re­mem­ber our ca­pac­ity to be gen­er­ous. At Christ­mas time many peo­ple will reach out to their neigh­bour and to the stranger, gen­er­ously giv­ing what they can to help oth­ers in need.

All acts of kind­ness can have an amaz­ing ef­fect. Christ­mas is the sea­son of good­will to all peo­ple, and it’s the sea­son that I be­lieve brings out the best in hu­man­ity.

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