OUR VULNERABLE GOD


Dear Jesus,

Was that you I saw the other night as I made my way home through the storm?  You were seated on the sidewalk and leaning against a building.  Two little boys were with you, one on either side.  You had sleeping bags with you and parcels of something.  It looked as if you were preparing to spend the night sleeping on the vent in that entrance.

I got out of my car to see if there was something that I could do to help.  But by the time I was close enough to speak to you a van with a church emblem on the side pulled up and two people got out and asked if you would like to sleep out of the storm and in a warm and dry place.  You got up and the three of you entered the van.  It drove off into the night before I could say or do anything.  I stood there and watched as the van taxied down the avenue for several blocks before turning and going out of my sight.

Was I watching you on the evening news as the reporter walked through the lines of mothers and their starving children, refugees in Kenya from the famine in Somalia?  I had to look away from the pictures of listless little ones too weak and malnourished even to brush away the flies that crawled on their faces.  The reporter said that one child, held in his mother’s arms, was four years old.  Anyone looking at him saw one that looked more like a listless one-year-old.  Were you in that helicopter in Afghanistan that was shot down, killing over 30 young soldiers inside?  I wondered if you were the elderly woman that died in her stifling house because a thief stole the AC unit from the window of her home.

This morning during my prayer period, I couldn’t get those images out of my head so that I could experience inner silence and be able to pray.  For some reason I began to think about the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels.  So, I got out my Bible and read both accounts clear through.  I was struck anew by how each Evangelist presents you in all your vulnerability.  The human child is the most helpless of creatures, totally, completely dependent on others for survival.

It is at the hands of others that a child learns to bond through the experience of human touch, sucking in nourishment from the mother’s breast, being held, fondled, cherished.  In the first weeks of life the baby learns to imitate sounds so that in due time the fundamentals of language can be learned.  I know that a child deprived of these basics at the very beginning may never learn to trust and to bond with other human beings.  Deprived of sounds of speech from the beginning, a child may learn to speak later, but never as naturally as others who, as infants, are exposed to those sounds can do.

I come to see that that is how dependent God became in order to show the compassionate depth of love that God has for us and that we should have for each other.  The human condition is God’s condition.  That’s what God achieved in you, isn’t it?

Is it true that many, even some in the Church, banish the image of vulnerability when they think about your nativity.  How could an infant, fully human and fully divine, possibly be susceptible to the dangers that those who are merely fully human can experience?  Christmas pageants and greeting cards would make one think that what you experienced in those first few months was only a masquerade, a pretending.

Certainly you are fully God, but a vulnerable God.  Those astrologers, those seekers from the East, came because they watched for signs and then interpreted them.  They weren’t called “kings” in the Gospel, nor were their number three.  They were wise.  They were astrologers.  They came to Bethlehem because they habitually watched for signs and then interpreted them and followed out the implications of those omens.  Outsiders, foreigners saw more clearly than did members of the household.  Sometimes I would like to think that they had some extraordinary helps so that they could get beyond the mewling infant and recognize the Wonder unfolding, the promise being fulfilled, hope’s dawning.  But all they saw was a baby and a mother and father.  What they saw became a sign for them and they adored as one does God alone.

All of this brings me back to my initial question about recognizing you in today’s victims.  If I say that I believe in the Christmas and Epiphany events, that through you, God has entered definitely into the human condition, then I have to search you out and serve you wherever you are found.  It was you being rescued by that van as I approached the other night, wasn’t it?  And it was you, so fragile and weak, that you could not raise your hand to swat the fly away.

All this searching in the night that threatens to envelope us today, in the midst of these calls to war and attempts to be a dominant presence in other lands make me wonder if we don’t live in an age of idolaters.  The state is not our reason to hope.  It is not our salvation.  If the light is to shine, you have to be the source.  We have to read the signs of the times, search the heavens, ponder and pray if we are to hear your cry and come and adore.

Perhaps that is why I am outraged when I hear some of our political leaders decry the thought of taxation of the wealthy and say that the government has minimal responsibility for the poor and the aged.  The private arena has that obligation, they say.  Is profit the only goal and motivation of manufacturers in these difficult financial times?  Shouldn’t there be a problem with outsourcing to foreign lands by so many of the corporations the jobs that used to provide employment for many of our laborers.  From a faith perspective, I wonder about our value system.  As the chasm separating the wealthy from the poor continues to grow and imitate that in other nations where revolutions now rage, I wonder what might lie in store for us, if we don’t recognize the implications of the Good News perceived in our vulnerable God.

Is that the Gospel message?  Or, am I getting it wrong?  Correct me, please, if I am missing the point.  I want to know your peace.

Sincerely,

Didymus

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