The God of Christmas is a Merciful God. So must we, as His Church, as pilgrims in this great Jubilee Year of Mercy. Let our hearts be opened and transformed by His mercy.
PUBLISHED ONAug 2016
Christmas is often thought of as revolving around a new born Baby – defenseless, vulnerable, poorly accommodated in the manger, surrounded by His parents and some animals in the stall to provide warmth in the cold night. Though the birth of Christ, in the simplicity of a fully human child, is indeed the great miracle of Christmas, its main message is that the Child of Christmas is God, who boundlessly embraces humanity with compassionate and merciful love, assuming our flesh in its frailty and the burden of sin to redeem us, to set us free. Therefore, Christmas is like a door of God’s mercy opened wide and made visible and accessible to all.
Having said this, I believe that there are three basic challenges to be able to celebrate Christmas for what it is meant to be – the Incarnation of God among us, the Emmanuel. First, we are challenged to be people who, in faith and joy, welcome God. The “door” of heaven opens to reveal the human face of God, His nearness to us. We have to open the “door” of our hearts as the manger where God wants to be born ever anew. We have to be able to recognize God in the “mangers” of our street corners, under the bridges and pathways in this world, where many still say ‘there is no room’ for Him. The risk is that we may look for Him where He cannot be found – in the well-decorated stores of our commercial centers or in the festive and lavish parties we do in His honor. We need to welcome Him as we open our hearts to those who live in the fringes of society, allowing our humiliating indifference to give way to a more merciful and compassionate love.
Secondly, we need to realize that the gift of Christmas has the power and the mission to transform and renew us, filling us with new life – the life of God. He wants to live in us and through us in this world. We need to experience the mercy of God deep within ourselves. The joy of Christmas is not that of receiving a gift which, soon after, enters the list of useless items on our shelves. God's mercy is a living gift that should enter our heart and regenerate us into the likeness of the gift received – into humility, simplicity, selfless and merciful love.
Thirdly, the living God of Christmas, gratefully accepted and joyfully experienced within us, becomes the transformative gift we can offer as true missionaries of mercy. The God of Christmas is a Merciful God. So must we, as His Church, as pilgrims in this great Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pope Francis has reminded us that a “merciful heart is not a weak heart but rather a heart fully open to God” and, therefore, a heart that is open to welcome others in fairness, patience, and kindness, by being just and compassionate, forgiving, and builders of bridges of reconciliation. Using the words of Isaac of Nineveh, a merciful heart is “a heart on fire for the whole of Creation, for humanity,…a heart that cannot see injury or slight sorrow in Creation.”
Such is the heart of God revealed to us by the Emmanuel. This is Christmas – an encounter of hearts: God’s and ours. Let our hearts be opened and transformed by His mercy.