God’s Emptying Himself

l by Rev. Fr. Augustine Fernando

( December 25, Bandarawela, Sri Lanka Guardian) The coming of Jesus is a grace for believers whom he has called. When believers who know and accept him, proclaim and explain the significance of his birth to all others, his coming will come to be acknowledged as a grace for all humanity if such explanation is accompanied by the example of a life of love Jesus asked his followers to live. We are rejoicing, praising and thanking God for sending His Son to us and celebrating the event of his birth as a man among men rather than keeping a chronologically calculated and undisputed date of birth.

Christmas makes us think of the Son of God born in a poor stable and ponder as to why the eternal Son of God became man. Catholics call this the ‘Mystery of the Incarnation’. A Christian mystery is not something mysterious. It is an inexhaustible truth hidden in God and known only by those to whom it is now revealed. “You, (the chosen) have been given the secrets of the Kingdom of God but to those outside everything is in parables” (Mk 4.11). As to the reason for the coming of Jesus, Paul would tell the Corinthians, ‘though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich’ (2 Cor 8.9).
Why did He choose to share our human condition? Humanity is often afflicted with a poverty that is widespread and deep and often it is unaware of. Humanity needs to be enabled, improved, enriched and transformed in many and varied ways, because it is not only psychologically and emotionally, morally and spiritually, communally and culturally, globally and economically impoverished but most of all impoverished in each person’s humanness as well. Jesus Christ came to make each and every human being truly and totally human. To do this He wished to relate to each and every human being. He humbled Himself to share our humanity in order to raise us up to share His divinity.
Jesus came to make all things new. He came to make man do everything on earth according to the will of God who makes no distinction of persons according to their nationality, family and racial background, social status or political and economic power.
Christians are followers of Jesus who have embraced the values of God’s Kingdom. All those who have been baptized or are getting ready to be baptized are those who undertake to strive to live the ‘beatitudes’, who strive to live lives of truth and justice, fraternity and forgiveness, graciousness and holiness, love and peace. They must strive to live blameless and holy lives in all their relationships, in all their earthly transactions whether public or private, together or alone, in all aspects of their lives.
Jesus Christ was very realistic and down to earth. He knew what was in man. He knew and understood very well that man had a tendency to fail and fall and ‘hide himself’ not only in carrying out physical responsibilities and functions but also in living well integrated moral and spiritual lives. He showed that He was magnanimous and generous in forgiveness and that His grace and boundless love could change and transform lives completely. His manner of treating, relating to and instructing sinners changed them radically and made them lead holy and exemplary lives as faithful disciples.
The salient mark of Christ’s disciples should be love. In fact every relationship in private or public life has true meaning only in love. Just as God loves us unconditionally, like the rain that falls on the good and the bad indiscriminately, so the Christian is called upon to make it his lifelong striving to love everyone unconditionally. To love someone who is indifferent to us, who scorns, suspects and despises us, to love someone whether that person loves us or not is not an easy thing. To love someone who works against you, who maligns you and runs you down, who plots your downfall and plans your destruction, is not easy at all. But that is what Jesus teaches us to do when He says, “Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you”.
At Christmas all of us Christians, at least for a day stop all our other interests and activities, attend Holy Mass or divine service in Church, listen to the Word of God and ponder on the Mystery of the Incarnation, ponder on the fact that the unseen, everlasting and all powerful God became a visible, mortal and powerless human being in order to invite us and persuade us very gently and lovingly to enter into an unheard of relationship and intimacy with God Himself whom we have now learnt to call “Our Father” and recognize fellowmen as brothers and sisters. Jesus said, there is celebration in heaven over one repentant sinner. Why shouldn’t there be appropriate celebration, quite distinct from gaudy consumption, on earth of the coming of Him who gave such hope to humanity. A fitting celebration is quite distinct from the irreligious and unchristian, gaudy and excessive consumption that some indulge in during this season and which merely caters to the greed and extravagance of those who know no better way of spending money.
It is up to each and every Christian to listen to the call of God and of needy humanity and clearly and respond to God and man actively in a spirit of fraternity in his day to day life. Each and every Christian is called to distance himself and cut himself off completely from the world of sin, the world in which all manner of selfishness and self-promotion and avarice for money and lust of the flesh and the greed for economic and political power make many to mindlessly abuse the dignity of others and trample upon their human dignity and fundamental rights. Ours is a time when many a human being is treated in a beastly manner, cruelly tortured and mangled and his person mutilated by those who embody a miserly selfish spirit coupled with banditry and stupidity masked with a veneer of nationalism and patriotism. There are those who think of man, in the words of Virgil as, “pretty low trash, the two legged beast called man” and manipulate any number of human beings for their selfish ends. To a world of such attitudes, Jesus’ mission is challenging: “I have come to serve and not to be served”. God loved the world of men so much that He sent His Son to the world to humanize and divinize all in it.
Christmas is also the time, if such thoughts do not come spontaneously to us, our minds are jolted by the presence of the marginalized, the disinherited, the poorest of the poor who are indeed to be recognized as our own brothers and sisters. Christmas is the time to renew our conviction that just as God came to share our humanity we too must share all our many and varied gifts of mind and heart and spirit and make every effort to heed the cry of the poor, the voiceless and the forgotten, the wounded and heal estranged relationships, feed the hungry and thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, relieve the sick and imprisoned and bring about a cohesive social community where fraternity and brotherhood truly prevails. Christmas is the time for those who have been given much by Providence in the way of a sense of social responsibility to reawaken that conscience and boldly venture to serve humanity through public service and imbue that field with civic virtues. Christmas is the time for all with goodwill to resolve to join hands to forge a national community that exemplifies a true spirit of sharing and of loving sacrifice to bring about a more virtuous global human family. Christmas is the time to be closely associated with and inspired by Jesus Christ who did not cling to His godhead but emptied Himself for the salvation of all mankind. Christmas is a time in which we resolve to hasten the day when a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Pt 3.13) will come among us as a blessing of also selfless human striving and God’s gift.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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