Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus–God who became human. The incarnation is real. It is so real that we become Jesus. We grow in wisdom, age and grace and come into more complete union with Abba God just as Jesus did. The Eastern Fathers and Mothers believe that Jesus became human so that we might become divine. Wow! Powerful stuff!
During our Christmas Eucharistic celebration on Christmas Eve, our pastor, Father George Kloster, reminded us that Jesus was vulnerable at his birth and at his death. I might add throughout his life because the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head.
He was born into uncertainty and vulnerability. Joseph and Mary had no control over the requirement to go to Bethlehem. It was a long and arduous 7 day journey from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. They did not know whether they would meet rebel brigands on the road. They did not know where they would stay. There was no birthing room–just a water/feed trough for the animals.
At his death Jesus was not in control. The Roman occupiers and their Jewish aristocratic cronies were determined to remove this trouble maker from their midst. Why? He hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes. He cured the blind and the lame and the deaf–often on the Sabbath. He challenged their priestly purity and debt codes. Ultimately, he hung on the cross, totally naked, totally vulnerable, totally obedient to Abba God.
Jesus’ vulnerability made him the man for others. This is not the “sweet little baby boy” of the carol. It is the God-man on a mission to set captives free and to liberate the oppressed. This was a vulnerable person who identified with the poor and oppressed and challenged empire on their behalf.
Jesus was on a sacred journey. We call such journeys pilgrimages. Our inner faith journey is a pilgrimage. Like Jesus, the Celtic monks epitomized the trusting journey. They would set sail in their currachs and let the tides take them to their place of resurrection. Maybe our problem on our journey is that we try to make the trip without letting go.
We have to let go and become vulnerable so that we can serve the poor and oppressed. I am not being critical; however, I wonder how many people in the church, most decked out in their Christmas finery, really grasped the import of what Father George was saying. I hope he uncomforted the comfortable.
I also believe that, if we had taken a poll, most congregants would have come to the Eucharist upset over the socialist Senate health care bill. When the bill finally passes, they may fear that their wallet and portfolios will shrink. They will lose some of their “liberties,” whatever that means, and some of their security because we will now be financing health care for 30 million Americans who do not have access to adequate health care. They along with the rest of us will become a little more vulnerable.
If I have to pay more so that others might have health, I consider that be part of the Gospel response. They say, “Socialist.” I say, “Christian.” Catholic social teaching clearly states that health care is a right–not a privilege–just because every person is created in the image of God and God wants each person to have life. It is just a matter of connecting the dots. Jesus was vulnerable so that he might serve others. We are to become vulnerable so that we might serve others. It is not about amassing more and more financial security in our silos. It is about alleviating human misery. It is about contributing money to the food bank so that others might have food on Christmas day. But it is also about questioning, challenging, and changing the economic and social structures, like the health care industry, which create human suffering. To paraphrase Dom Helder Camara, “When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are hungry, they call me a socialist.”
During the candle light meditation after Communion, Father George spoke more about the journey. Like Joseph and Mary and Jesus, we walk on–sometimes in darkness and uncertainty. We walk on with our pains, wounds and hurts. We walk on with our illnesses and arthritic aches and pains—our knees crunch and our ankles grind. But we walk on. We walk in the light because we are becoming the Light of Jesus to the world. As we walk, we can pray the prayer of Thomas Merton:
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. (Thoughts in Solitude)
In spite of darkness, pain, and death, may you always walk in the light of Jesus as you become the light of Jesus. God will lead us on the right road. God will lead our feet on the path of peace.