Christmas is an invitation to every Christian to seek God and fellow beings in and through Jesus
The Christmas and the New Year celebrations point to one essential human aspect. In and thorough such special events, we are invited to experience the depth and joy of life in everything, including the ordinary.
This is best exemplified in the celebration of Christmas, when through Jesus, we are called to the breadth and depth of humanity, leading to divinity.
Jesus Christ came to reveal to us God the Father (Mt 11:27) in and through His own person. The Father is intimately concerned with the whole creation. Even the falling of a sparrow gains His attention (Mt 10:29). However, Christ said that the humans are of more value than sparrows (Mt 10:31). He sends rain on the just and the unjust (Mt 5:45). He is kind eve to the unthankful and evil humans (Lk 6:35). He is ever merciful (Luke 6:36), putting up even with wayward human beings. He is patient towards each one, always hoping for a fuller salvation (2 Pt 3:9).
Jesus, while fully human, showed who the Father really is. Truly He came to reveal the Father as compassion and love. It is through the person of Christ – through His life and work that we gain greater understanding of the Father’s nature and character; His love and devotion for us!
Christ Reflects the Father
Christ said to Apostle Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Christ is the express image of God the Father. We can gain much understanding from Jesus’ conversation with His apostles leading up to this remark.
Jesus had says to Thomas, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Only through Christ can anyone come to know the Father and enter into a relationship with Him. Jesus continues, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (Jn 14:7).
Philip joins the conversation, saying to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (Jn 14:8). Jesus responds: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (Jn 14:9).
So, we come to know the Father in and through Christ. We comprehend God’s nature and character through His Son.
Christ, the Face of God
Jesus gives us a strange warning: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels constantly see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 18:10). Daniel McNeill, in his book ‘The Face: A Natural History’, asks: “Does the Christian God have a face?”
Yes He does; Jesus for sure is that face. “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.” (Jn 1:18) God can be seen, but Jesus is the only human being who has seen Him face to face in His full, glorified reality.
Jesus says “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9); the resemblance between the Father and the Son must be strong in more ways than we may humanly can imagine.
Trace of God in the Other
Jesus came not only to reveal God’s identity, but also the human identity. A Jewish philosopher speaks of the trace of God in the face of fellow humans. Too often we forget that God can now be seen primarily through the face of the other. In and through our encounter with our fellow beings, we are called to experience Love in its brokenness and fullness – God.
However, in our broken world, we can only see traces of God here and there. These traces, these faces, are all too precious, being the primary means of experiencing our personal depth and that of God.
The innocent and smiling face of the Child Jesus with the disfigured and painful face of the Crucified One, can be seen on the frightened, anxious faces of refugees and the wondering faces of children. But precisely in their differences – of brokenness, sinfulness and hopes – can we experience life in their beauty, sadness, depth and death.
Thus the Christian dream is that of living our lives intensely, here on earth. Experiencing its special joys we sanctify the ordinary and mundane events of life. In our encounter of the face of Jesus, we see who God is and who fellow-humans are. So also, exploring the agonies and joys of our fellow human beings, we get a glimpse of who Jesus is, who God is.
It is precisely in and through our commitment to the world and fellow beings that we reach the fullness of life, including our destiny in God. A serious and earnest living of our daily life leads us to cherish its preciousness. In fact, therein we experience – partially and opaquely – the face of God, the traces of the Infinite, God. This is the message of the Year of Mercy – 2016.
While it is perfectly fine to celebrate it in a grand way, we are also called to live this day so specially, so that all the days ahead, will be moments of joy and gladness. Through this celebration, we are called to experience time in its fullness, which includes also timelessness. Thus a deep and profound celebration of the New Year day can encourage us to see every day as special. Further, we are also called to embrace the timeless and eternal dimension of life, in and through such concrete and temporary experiences.
See God and our fellow human beings in and through Jesus; traces of God in and through humans; eternity in and through the present world.
Kuruvila Pandikatt SJ
Professor of Science, Religion and
Philosophy Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune