When searching for seeds for meditation, I generally turn towards the writings of Pope Benedict. If I was stuck on a desert island, I would only need my Bible and a copy of Jesus of Nazareth and every day I’d have a new understanding.
So his writings were the first place I turned when I was asked to speak to a prolife group. As I prepare my talk for January, I began praying over this portion of his homily from Midnight Mass in 2006.
God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby.
God’s sign is that He makes Himself small for us.
This is how He reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor.
He comes as a baby – defenseless and in need of our help.
He asks for our love: so He makes Himself a child.
He wants nothing other from us than our love.
God made Himself small so that we could understand Him, welcome Him, and love Him.
Pope Benedict XVI
I could sit and think about that quote for hours, and my thoughts jumped all over at first. First to the sign – God’s sign – promised to us by the prophet Isaiah- “the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) Then to the idea of simplicity, then to vulnerability. He makes Himself small for us; He gives Himself into our hands. God makes Himself so vulnerable — first, as a human that we could kill, then coming to us under the appearance of bread that we could ignore, or, at worst, desecrate.
But as comfortable as these thoughts made me feel at first — how warm and fuzzy to think of Jesus coming to us as a baby so that we would welcome Him, love Him… I began to feel uncomfortable. But we don’t welcome Him. After all, everyone knows there was no room for Him in the inn…
In the third part of his work Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict points out that the verse refers more to the world than to any particular innkeeper. Rather than focus on the innkeepers, perhaps we need to look within. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (Jn 1:11)
But what really struck me is that if He came as a baby so we could welcome Him… what about when our world doesn’t welcome babies? Our government persecutes them and our society seems threatened by them. This is nothing new — read Matthew 2:16. Being threatened by a baby? There’s no wonder this child was not only a sign for Ahaz in Isaiah but was also a sign of contradiction (Luke 2:34).
Threatened by a baby? Our world is threatened too … Not by the baby, but by what the baby brings… suffering… the Cross…
The Christ Child brought the Cross — that is why He was born.
And that’s why we rejected Him. Because He came and brought suffering. The Prince of Peace brings suffering, the Lord of Light comes in the darkness.
And really, when we really stop to think about it … every baby brings the Cross. Every baby brings suffering — not just the physical suffering of pregnancy and childbirth, but the suffering of being stretched as you lose your selfishness in fatherhood and motherhood. The suffering that comes when you begin to live not for yourself, but for another. And that’s why our society fears them. Babies mean selflessness. Babies mean being stretched beyond your imagination. Babies mean sacrifice.
But where there is the greatest Cross, there is the greatest Love.
The Christ Child came to bring the Cross… but He also came to bring us Love.