It was at Christmas that our Lord, as it were, took His first plunge into the heart of our troubles, of our difficulties, of our experiences, into the heart of the life we are leading. And that, not as someone standing at a distance, but as thrown into the stream--feeling the shock, the human astonishment at what took place around Him--feeling the poverty, the pain, the isolation in which He was left. He loves that we should sympathize with Him in it.
- Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ
Mother Stuart’s quote reminded me of a wonderful Christmas poem by Karl Rahner, SJ. Entitled I am There, the poem captures God speaking to humanity. “I am there. I am with you.” Such a simple statement is the heart of our Christmas celebration – God is with us. Emmanuel has come; the Messiah is here. We are united in the Heart of Christ and our hearts are filled with joy.
This joy we hear proclaimed in verse and song at Christmas is our response to this extraordinary truth that we are God’s Beloved. Consider this identity as you listen to the Christmas readings. For example the second reading from the Mass at Dawn on Christmas morning is from Timothy’s first letter. It begins with… “Beloved: When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
What a wonderful and yet compelling idea to be heirs in hope of eternal life because God is in love with humanity. How do we know this truth? How do we experience it? Recognizing one’s self as God’s Beloved is a gift of grace and necessitates espacio – time, space and silence – to sense this extraordinary love. Another way and certainly one that is more tangible is to consider is how children and young people look upon those whom they love and know love them. Consider yourself. Bring to mind one whom you love and you know loves you. What is the impact of this relationship on you? Just imagine if each of us would take the time to turn our hearts to God’s and see ourselves as God does.
My prayer this Christmas is that each of us takes a moment to focus on the faces of those whom we love, especially children and young people, and see in them the mercy, gentleness and compassion of the Christ Child. May we then with greater confidence show others this same gentleness and love through our thoughts and our actions. I remain convinced that our world can be marked by peace if each of us takes the time to ponder the wonder of God’s love. We can kindle this spark of divine love in ourselves and one another by taking a few moments during these hectic days we know as Christmas and New Year’s to be still and to feel God’s love. In those moments we will receive the gift of experiencing being so loved by God that we see ourselves as God’s image to others.
Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ is Head of the Conference of Sacred Heart Education.