Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Lengthy Way

Jesus Christ is the proof that God has heard our cry. And not only this! God's love for us is so strong that he cannot remain aloof; he comes out of himself to enter into our midst and to share fully in our human condition (cf. Ex 3:7-12). The answer to our cry which God gave in Jesus infinitely transcends our expectations, achieving a solidarity which cannot be human alone, but divine. Only the God who is love, and the love which is God, could choose to save us in this way, which is certainly the lengthiest way, yet the way which respects the truth about him and about us: the way of reconciliation, dialogue and cooperation.
Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, on this Christmas 2011, let us then turn to the Child of Bethlehem, to the Son of the Virgin Mary, and say: "Come to save us!" Let us repeat these words in spiritual union with the many people who experience particularly difficult situations; let us speak out for those who have no voice.
Urbi et orbi  message, December 25, 2011
Reflection – The Pope went on in this address to mention the nations and peoples of the world suffering especially in this time—the litany of trouble spots that is all too familiar to those who follow the news closely.
When we contemplate the world as it is, with all its war and hunger, disease and oppression, and when we contemplate the sufferings that may come more close to ourselves personally and those we love—illness and death, marital breakdown and financial worries—the temptation is always there to at the very least question God’s care and presence, perhaps even his reality.
For many today, it is more than a temptation—the suffering and ugliness of the world seems to make faith difficult to the point of impossibility. To us who have faith, and to those whose faith may be shaky, the Pope calls us to contemplate this mysterious baby in the manger, this mysterious coming of God into the world, not as a mighty warrior to put all the armies to flight, not as an all-powerful king to take command and dispense perfect justice, not as an all-encompassing wonder worker taking all our afflictions away, but as a baby.
‘The lengthiest way’ of salvation – what a nice turn of phrase that is. God chooses to save us by entering into our woes with us, not by taking our woes away. There is such a deep reality at play and at stake here.
What is our central illness, our central affliction, the passion that drives all passions, the poison that blights everything it touches? It is that we want something other than God, or want something in preference to God, or in place of God. This is how wars start, how poverty and oppression thrive, how relationships are fractured, and how even our bodies are damaged and so break down and perish. The poison is universal; it is in all of us, and so all of us share in its effects.
So God comes to us—and we see in this Christmas mystery He offers us nothing but Himself. If He had come in might and power immediately, solving all our problems and curing all our ailments, he would have, in fact, solved nothing and cured nothing. We poor benighted human beings would have simply welcomed all the gifts and blessings He was giving us… and turned our backs on Him, as we do.
God made us so that we will never be truly well, never truly happy, never truly free, until we love Him, turn towards Him, seek Him, worship Him. This is the order of all created reality, and we are His creatures. He is our happiness, our health, our freedom, our joy, our peace.
And so He embarks on the lengthiest path of salvation, but the one ‘which respects the truth about him and about us’. And He remains so present in each of our lives, helping us, yes, healing us, yes, in so many mysterious and often hidden ways. But always, in His presence, His help, and His healing, drawing us to the deep healing, which is to love Him and seek Him and follow Him with all our hearts.
How does this play out on the world stage, in Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, North Korea, and in the myriad personal tragedies each of us is bitterly acquainted with in our families and loved ones? I don’t know.
But I know the truth of what I have written above in my own life. I also know that I am nothing special, just another sinner in need of mercy and salvation. So I know that God must be doing for each human being what He is doing for me, or at least wanting to.
This is the deal God offers us, though, to enter and share our human condition Himself, and in that to transform it from within, to make it a sharing in the mystery of love and grace. And each of us must decide if this is true, this Christmas present, this gift of God to us.