The Minister General invites us to ponder the humble stripping of Self that brought the Eternal among us a child.
My dear Brothers and Friends, the singular event of the Incarnation, God’s taking human form, stripping Self in order to enter into our human condition, is a witness to God’s redeeming love and grace, God’s commitment to enter into and redeem all of life without exception, without exclusion. The peace, good news, and salvation spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah is a declaration that God reigns over all that seeks to divide and destroy us and the natural environment. This victory is not grounded in an ideology of power and might, as the world currently envisages. Rather, it is a victory grounded in the unconditional love and mercy of God, which has no parallel in human history or the natural Order. This unconditional love and mercy is expressed not through might and right, but through what Pope Francis calls “the humility of God taken to the extreme” (Christmas homily 2018).
Pope Francis continues:
“It is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.”
The Incarnation is, fundamentally, a relational event. God chooses to enter into deeper communion with us so that we, like the people of Isaiah’s times, might recognize the saving grace and greatness in which we have been created and to which we are called as beloved children of the Triune God. Recognizing the truth that God seeks to share with all of humanity and creation, we in turn become humble servants of the God who humbled Self for the sake of all that God has created…
Humility; smallness; poverty; tenderness; love; acceptance. These words help us to better understand the nature of this Christmas celebration, and how we are to live and witness to the incredible event of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ in our lives today. We have only to recall the role of these same words, or better yet, the attributes of Christian discipleship and Franciscan life and mission manifested in the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He progressively came to discover in his life, in the life of his brothers, in the life of those who were materially poor and socially excluded, in the life of the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil and others who did not profess the Christian faith, and in all of creation, the transformative power contained not in God’s ‘greatness’ but rather in God’s ‘smallness’. Francis perceived in the smallness and poverty of the manger a love so strong and deep as to be capable of melting hardened hearts and breaking all barriers separating people one from another – geographical, cultural, social, religious, and other.
It is by the grace of the Incarnation that new pathways for encounter, dialogue, discovery, forgiveness, and human fraternity are created and maintained. Only those who are steeped in the logic of God’s ‘Incarnational’ love will be able to reach out to those otherwise discounted and excluded: migrants and refugees; those who profess other religious ideas and practices; those who we are told are our ‘enemies’ when, in the logic of God’s Incarnation, they are our brothers and sisters; a wounded creation, exhausted and under threat from unbridled and immoral exploitation.
As we celebrate the unfathomable love and mercy of God which entered into human history in a unique and powerful manner through the Incarnation of Jesus, let us welcome God’s invitation for us to become the very presence of God’s offer of shalom, peace, to all around us.
Let us commit to the pillars upon which this peace is constructed: truth, justice, love, freedom, and forgiveness. May this same gift of peace, fully embodied in great gift of God to the world, God’s beloved Son Jesus, fill our hearts with joy. May it give direction to our fraternities. And may it help shape the very substance and form of our mission as co-disciples with all Christians, journeying together with Jesus, with all of humanity, and with the created universe on the road towards God’s kingdom.
A blessed and peace-filled Christmas to each and every one of you!
Rome, 12 December 2019
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant