Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas Year A

Have you ever been mean to people? The condition of “bitchiness” affects both men and women. Sometimes a person drives the car and is in the wrong lane and has to quickly switch lanes. This happens a lot at traffic lights. But what you do is prevent him or her from cutting into your lane. And when a comment is passed that you were mean, have you ever heard this excuse or used it yourself? “It’s only human” or “I am only human what”. This excuse is used when someone has lost it and has given in to temptation and is finding an explanation for the lapse of judgement. Whilst it is true that “to err is human [and to forgive divine]”, the fact is, if we reflect upon it, the excuse “it is human what” is proof that we have already lost our sense of humanity. Why? Why do I say that? Christmas is why—Christmas is the reason the excuse is an expression of a lost sense of humanity.

Christmas is about the incarnation. The incarnation means simply that God has come down to earth, took on our human nature in order to confer upon us the dignity of children of God. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us” is significant because through the incarnation, Jesus came to show us how to be truly human. When we give ourselves the excuse that our sins are indications of our humanity, we miss the point. What is worse is that “the Word made Flesh” is sometimes used against Jesus. In order to defend ourselves and to find an excuse for our actions, we point out that “Jesus is God what, so, how can he sin”. This argument misses the point simply because we take as our reference that we are made for sin. We may sin but we are not made for sin.

Therefore, “Jesus is like us in everything except sin” says that Jesus is sinless not because he is God but because he is human. He came to show us that it is possible to live for God and to live in God. He became one of us in order to show us our true destiny, which is a divine destiny.

You can’t imagine how pervasive the contrary idea that our destiny is less than divine is. Hence, Christmas is a timely call to attention that we are not made for sin. In the encyclical, Deus caritas est, incidentally signed on Christmas Day by BXVI, helps us understand why humans are not made for sin. In the encyclical, the Pope speaks of two types of love: eros and agape. Eros, from which we get such terms like erotic along with all the steamy imageries of love, actually points out our true destiny. Our perception of what is erotic usually revolves around “sexual perversion” bordering on “pornography” or leading towards the darker side of our human nature. But, eros is actually ever reaching out towards its fulfilment in agape, in God. How? Human desire which is a powerful drive of the “erotic” or eros is a sign that human persons are made for and directed toward a love that never ends. St. Augustine, the Pope’s favourite philosopher illustrates this point. St. Augustine asks us to reflect on our experience of desire. Our experience shows that when we have desired something very badly, and have worked very hard to possess it, often at the end, we lose interest and become bored with the very things we chase after. Sometimes we are even condemned to a relentless move to seek one thing after another. Ask a womaniser if he’ll ever be satisfied when he gets the woman he lusts after. Black Eyed Pea sang this song which proves this point: fools in “lust” could never get enough of love, love, love.

Our experience of desire points out to us something very important about who we are. No good thing that we have wanted and even possessed can finally quench desire itself, because we are made for the uncreated Good who is God himself.

Christmas then sets us right on our path to thinking about our humanity and our potential. We are made for God and our inner dynamism or drive is directed towards God and not towards sin. We sin, even routinely sin but we are not made for sin. To say “I am only human what” may be an insult to God—a kind of indictment against God meaning “You, God cannot have made me better. That is why I am like that”. The fact that we sin is not the same as we are made to sin. Our capacity to sin is indicative of the freedom we possess as created beings and it not an indictment against God who created us less than perfect.
During the celebration of the Eucharist, sometimes people can miss an action. But insignificant as that action may be, it speaks volumes. When the wine is poured into the chalice, a drop of water is added to the wine and the following prayer is said silently: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity”. God when He created humanity, He put the stamp of divinity in us. We are created with potentiality for the divine.

The second reading tells us that God spoke to us through different prophets and at different times but in our own time, he speaks to us through his Son. What is most relevant is not that God “speaks” to us as much as God indicates His desire to be at close quarters with us. He became one of us so that we can look upon Him as the model of humanity, as the model of how to be fully a human. That is the meaning of grace because grace is the gift to enable us to fulfil our divine destiny.

Christmas is not a time to be discouraged by our sinfulness. It is a time to be encouraged by the possibility of being human, like Jesus is and also to be divine like Jesus. Only Jesus can make us more human and more divine. "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was made flesh." He lived among us and so it is time to give thanks that finally we have the possibility of regaining our full and true humanity.