Sunday 24 December 2017

Monday, December 25, 2017 - Christmas 2017

In the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius has a meditation on the Incarnation (Sp. Ex. 102). The three Divine Persons, the Father, Son and Spirit are looking down on their beloved earth and are sad that things have turned out as they have. There is, they notice a triple alienation. Humans are estranged from God, from each other and from nature (Gen 3:14-15). In the course of their discussion they come to the conclusion that the only way in which the earth can be restored to its former state is by sending the Son down to earth. However, for the Son to be incarnated, human collaboration was required and this is why the angel was sent to Mary (Lk 1:26-38) and appeared in a dream to Joseph on three occasions (Mt 1:19-24; 2:13-15; 2:19-23) to invite them both to be those collaborators. Both respond with unbounded generosity and the Incarnation became a reality.

The Incarnation was and is really an earth shattering event. It was unprecedented, and an event that broke every boundary and shattered every wall. It could only have been the brain child of God and yet, even God could not make it a reality unless humans collaborated with God.
There are numerous implications of the Incarnation. We may reflect on three of these and their meaning for us today.

The first is the disponability or total self surrender of God. By choosing the Incarnation as the way to save the world, God put himself at the mercy of human beings. Since God would become totally human as a result of the Incarnation God had to depend on humans to make this a reality. Was there another way in which God could have saved the world? Surely! However, God chose the Incarnation because God wanted to be at the total service and mercy of human beings. This is unthinkable, unimaginable and beyond belief. Yet, it is a reality. What does this say about our God? It says that our God wanted to be like us so totally that he could feel with our feelings, think with our thoughts, act with our actions and in doing so, show us who we are really are. God wanted us to know that we are – even in our humanity – divine.

The second implication is that of human collaboration and co-operation. The two key figures who stand as models of what it means to be co-creators with God are Joseph and Mary. Matthew’s Gospel focuses on Joseph as the one whom the angel invites, and Luke’s Gospel focuses on Mary. However, in both cases, the response is total and absolute. Joseph’s obedience to the commands of God received in dreams (Mt 1:24; 2:14; 2:21) and Mary’s “let it be done to me according to your will” (Lk 1:38) are pointers to what God can do in and through humans if only they are courageous and dare to opt for God’s will rather than their own.

What would have been the situation if Joseph and Mary had said ‘No’ to God?  In a word, the Incarnation would never have become a reality. The positive response of humans (represented by Joseph and Mary) is imperative for God to take flesh on the earth.

This leads to the third implication of the Incarnation. The possibilities that the birth of Jesus have opened up are innumerable. Through his Incarnation, Jesus has graced humanity and made it divine. No longer is humanity a disadvantage or limitation. No longer is it something to be looked down upon or be ashamed of. No longer is it a weakness. After the birth of Jesus, humanity takes on a new look, a new meaning. Now there are no limits. Now humanity need not be confined. There are no restrictions now to how far we can go and how much we can be. Jesus has shown the way.

We can because of the Incarnation and example of Jesus, love more, dare more, believe more, and be more. Nothing is now outside the scope of our humanity. Now only freedom and limitlessness are real.

The message of Christmas is thus a message of God with us, for us and in us. It is and will always be a message of hope even in a hopeless world, a message of joy in a sorrowful world, a message of peace in a world that is torn by war and strife and a message of love in a world that is filled with fear. In the midst of the Rohingya crisis where thousands of migrants are searching for a place to lay their heads, the multi-sided armed conflict in Syria and the desire to build walls instead of bridges the Incarnation and Christmas call us to look beyond our narrow selves and spare a thought and more for others.

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