The Incarnation Reveals and Restores Human Dignity

Merry Christmas!  This Holy Night, we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  We celebrate the patience and faithful love of our God, come down to earth that we might gaze upon the face of God in the person of Jesus.

Tonight, the world celebrates the perfect union of the human and Divine in the person of Jesus.  In Jesus the human person finds two great virtues to live by, which lead us to our common goal; humility, and poverty, which lead us to our dignity.

Several realities manifest this union of human and divine natures.  Most perfectly, we see in Jesus the fulfillment of God’s desire to live in a relationship of love with every human person.  Jesus is the Eternal WORD of God made flesh.  The Creator takes on the human existence of one who is also created.  Jesus is one person, with two distinct natures, human and Divine.

In the human family of Joseph and Mary, we see again how God brings the Divine into the human realm.  Joseph, the descendent of Judah, becomes the husband of Mary, and thus the one through whom God keeps his promise to David that ‘your throne shall stand firm forever’. (Samuel 8:16)   Mary is the virgin who conceives by the power of the Holy Spirit; Mary, who is the recipient from her birth of the prevenient grace to be conceived without sin and preserved from sin throughout her life.  Mary is the perfect example of how God’s grace builds upon nature.  Mary is the perfect model for every human being to realize that God’s will is to raise our human nature to the Divine nature through His Son, Jesus Christ.

This Holy Night we gaze upon the humility of Jesus, who willingly leaves behind His heavenly home as Son of God to enter into our human nature as one like us in all things but sin.  We marvel at the humility of Jesus who leaves the realm that knows no time or space to expand our human limits of the same.  We ponder that God to whom all glory, honor, and power belong will live among us as a Servant, Friend, and Companion.  With amazement, we come to know Jesus as the Christ who is Life and Light as the Redeemer who will submit to death in order to bring even death under His reign and rule.

Because humility was at the center of how Divine Love chose to reveal Himself to us, we know that humility is at the heart of how we are to live our lives before God, and with and for each other.

With humility, poverty comes as a strong companion.  God, who created everything from nothing, enters our human nature veiled in poverty.  Mysteriously this poverty is the gate to receiving the fullness and richness of God.  Christ, who at the end of time will place all creation at the feet of God, is born this night in a manger, a shelter shared with only his parents and beasts of burden. But the Light of Heaven shines upon this humble scene of simple Love, and to this birth will be drawn shepherds and kings, and through the course of time, every nation on earth will bend the knee at the name of Jesus. (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10)

Because Jesus chose to be born and to live among us in such poverty, we learn that our life before God is one of poverty, because we have nothing except from the loving Providence of God.  In the light of this truth, we learn that our human relationships are to bear the same simplicity.  Pride and possessions hold us back from reaching the greatness for which we are created.  Humility and simplicity move us closer to God’s Kingdom, and are the path in this life to building a world which helps all people to live with dignity.

This Solemnity of the Birth of our Savior teaches us the origins and make up of human dignity.  Each of us is created in the image and likeness of God, which means, we are created for holiness.  Who could define God without using this word?  “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord, God of Hosts!”  (Isaiah 6)To be created in the image and likeness of God is to be created for love.  For who could define God without speaking of love?!  The dignity of the human person means sharing in the Divine Life; sharing in holiness and love.  In the plan of God, this dignity is achieved through His Son, Jesus.  Even our understanding of Jesus as the perfect union of the two natures, human and Divine, tells us all we need to know about what our human dignity looks like.  Our human dignity is realized by the love of God, which raises our human nature to the Divine nature; to Divine life and love.

Because Jesus is the Word made flesh, He is Truth.  So our human dignity involves seeking Jesus, coming to know the truth.  And our dignity is realized by living this truth.  As Pope Francis says: “We do not possess the truth.  The truth possesses us.”  Therefore, human dignity is not realized by living simply as one chooses.  Dignity is gained in opening one’s life to God, and to the truth of Jesus.  Because Jesus existed with the Father from the foundation of the world, the truth has existed well before the human person.  So, true freedom is found in the pursuit of truth.  Human freedom does not exist before all else, but rather, is discovered and realized in relation to Jesus.

This is why St. Paul can say, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”  (Galatians 5:1)  This is why Jesus teaches: “If you remain in my WORD, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:31-32)  Freedom follows truth.  That is the reason Jesus extends the invitation to every person: “Come, follow me.”

As in every age, Jesus enters our world to set us free.  As with every age, the Gospel message seeks to correct worldly ways of thinking that limit the human person and misguide society.  For instance, our culture today extolls tolerance as the way to peaceful coexistence.  But tolerance alone falls short.  We are certainly called to respect every person, but it is only in seeking and living the truth, the one common truth to all people of every age, that we will find our way to a society of peace and harmony.

This Holy Night, as we adore the Word made flesh, we have hope renewed that God’s Word, the Truth of Jesus Christ, is not old and out of style.  Rather, God’s Word, Jesus Christ, is Ever Ancient, and Ever New, for He is Eternal!  God’s Word, Jesus Christ, is the Light of the World, “the Dawn from on high, who comes to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  (Luke 1:78-79)

People all over the world celebrate this Holy Night for many reasons, but fundamentally what we seek is the desire of our hearts, the One who makes us whole.  We come tonight seeking understanding and acceptance, which is always found in the person of Jesus.  We come tonight seeking fulfillment, which is always found in our relationship with Jesus, who leads us to the deepest knowledge of God and of our self.

That is why I can say with all the love of my heart, because the Church is the Body of Christ, the Church loves, embraces, and accepts every person.  No matter what your walk in life entails, no matter the sins that are a part of your history, you are loved and accepted.  As Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us” the Church longs to accompany you, to journey with you, to know you.  Each person is a beloved member of God’s family.  Together, let us follow Christ.  Together, let us seek his truth, and desire to be possessed by Him.  Together, we will walk humbly with our God, who will lead us out of darkness into the way of peace that is His Kingdom.

Merry Christmas!

Nativity 003

Arcbishop Etienne

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By Daniele Zedda • 18 February

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