Reasons to rejoice
Today’s readings: Isaiah 52, 7-10; Hebrews 1, 1-6; John 1, 1-18
Most of the time we are tempted to let our lives be shaped by what falters the heart and darkens the skies above us, rather than by what gives the needed inner strength. We need the extra inner strength and the will power to swim rather than just float with the currents surrounding us.
Betlehem itself these days provides us with a narrative that mixes up the reasons for rejoicing with the sadness and tragedy of exclusion and rejection. That is what our existence is made up of. There is in life what makes us strong and what renders us vulnerable. We all feel more vulnerable today, in a world where very easily we can feel lonely in the midst of a crowd. Even our cities and our environments, on which we bank heavily, have become more and more vulnerable these days.
All this imposes on us the duty to realistically come to terms with what deeply we carry in our hearts. There is light and darkness, there are reasons for rejoicing and reasons for losing hope. We need wisely to keep the right perspective, particularly not to let go of our sources of inner strength.
Religion is normally perceived and lived as the struggle on our part to reach out to the divine. Christianity reverses this, because it is God himself who reaches out to humanity. This is what Christmas is about... the assembly point, the point where the human and the divine meet, where God makes himself available to us and where the divine becomes the real.
In today’s gospel we read the prologue to John’s gospel, a powerful discourse of contrasts between light and darkness, word and flesh, law and grace. These are the contrasts that shape our daily living and that constantly provoke us never to be alert to God’s salvation as it unfolds before our own eyes.
Unfortunately, our sin-based theology led to the common belief that the incarnation took place only because of human sinfulness. That can be profoundly misleading. It made us forget altogether the beautiful truth proclaimed in the early years of Christianity that “God became human so that humans could become God”.
We cannot tarnish the beauty of the incarnation with such narrow, sin-centred perceptions. This has always provoked endless debate in theology since the early years of Christianity. Today we are more concerned with the ‘wholeness’ of our being and we know that we cannot nail down the need of salvation exclusively to sinfulness, seeing God as being constantly offended by our transgressions.
Throughout Advent we were invited to dig deep down in our hearts, needs and desires to acknowledge that we need a saviour. But we cannot narrow down our understanding of salvation to something simply personal or even to something pertaining to the spiritual sphere.
There is the cosmic dimension of salvation which we cannot ignore. The whole cosmos has a place in the unfolding of salvation. It makes no sense at all to speak of one’s being saved in isolation from one’s own relationships with others, with self, with the entire creation and with the living God.
This cosmic dimension of salvation accentuates the much desired and needed transformation of humanity itself. Pope Francis speaks of the ecology of relationships and in his Letter Laudato Si’ writes: “When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves”.
The healing we all yearn for to be reconciled to ourselves and to others, thus finding our true place here on earth is central to Christmas. God has come to empower humanity, to restore in us the full dignity we have been gifted with. In an old sermon, Pope St Leo the Great writes: “Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition”.
May Christmas bring warmth to our faltering hearts. May the light of God shine in our lives and never be overpowered by darkness.