The Christmas Day Mass
Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18
Our Response to the World
In one of the contemplations in The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola asks the retreatant to imagine ‘how the Three Divine Persons look down upon the whole expanse or circuit of all the earth, filled with human beings’ and seeing that the entire human race is going down the wrong path, ‘They decree in Their eternity that the Second Person should become man to save the human race’. The Nativity of the Lord, the Incarnation of the Son of God, Christmas, was the Trinity’s response to a world that had been sliding down the wrong path. Christmas made sure that ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’ (v.5).
As the disciples of the Lord, we are also called to wear the specs of the Trinity and look at our world around us. What do we see? What is our response?
Christmas, the Trinity’s saving act, had several unusual characteristics, very much unlike the popular expectations of the time as echoed by Isaiah in the first reading of today. The Second Person of the Trinity was born in a manger, in a cave, to a travelling couple who were rejected hospitality in the popular inns of the day. This is how Og Manindo, in his book The Greatest Salesman in the World, describes the manger scene: “A small candle, forced between a cleft in the cave wall, shone faintly on a bearded man and a young woman huddled closely together. At their feet, in a hollowed-out stone that usually held cattle fodder, slept an infant. Hafid (the hero of the book) knew little of such things but he sensed that the baby was new-born from the child’s wrinkled and crimson skin. To protect the sleeping infant from the cold, both the man’s and the woman’s cloaks covered all but the small head…the woman trembled and Hafid saw that her thin garment offered little protection against the dampness of the cave. Hafid looked again at the infant. He watched, fascinated, as the small mouth opened and closed, almost in a smile, and a strange sensation passed through him…the woman trembled again from the cold…”
What are the characteristics of our response to the world that we see around us, predictable or shocking? Do the people who are born outside the towns’ inns have a place in our response? Do travelling peoples (migrants, displaced, homeless, refugees) have a place in our response? Do the wrinkled skinned, thin garmented men and women find a place in our response?
One of the immediate effects of Christmas was the joy brought to the lives of little-noticed people of the day, the shepherds, reminding us very much of the Song of Mary (Lk 1: 46-55): the Lord ‘has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant…; he has ‘lifted up the lowly and has filled the hungry with good things…’
Does our response to the world around us bring joy to the lives of the little-noticed people, the lowly and the hungry?
Today, like the shepherds, we are invited to look at the ‘child with wrinkled and crimson skin’ and see divinity in him; to believe that because of the ‘manger birth’ of the Second Person of the Trinity, every other wrinkled, shivering, and vulnerable body is thereby sanctified; to believe in Christ’s words that those whom ‘the world’ (v.10) despises – the poor, the hungry, the naked, the orphan-born, the old, the sick, the migrant, the asylum seeker – are not human detritus, mere garbage fit for the rubbish heap, but belong to him and deserve the same reverence. For it is clear that all our responses will be measured by one yardstick: ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:40).