“What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – Jn 1:4-5
My eleven-month old niece, Olivia, was a distraction during Mass last night. She engaged everyone around her, sang her own songs, and squirmed all over those of us who held her. At one point, she looked intently into my eyes, smiled, and gave me her version of a kiss filled with saliva. In her tiny embrace, I sensed the presence and life of God.
Little Olivia drove home Pope Francis’ Christmas Eve homily for me: “God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.” In her smallness, she helped me get in touch with my own frailty, limitation, desires and hopes. She helped awakened life in me.
Today, we celebrate a Mystery most central to our faith. God, in the Christ child, comes to give greater life to all. God is in love with each of us, as we are. Yet, those who are in touch with their smallness – their weakness, vulnerability, and interdependency – will recognize him most. And live in his radiant light. For others, it will be just a cultural ritual. When we accept Jesus poor and humble, in our smallness, our lives will be transformed. When we look at a person who is poor, who loves, who forgives, we see God. We experience God who is poor, who loves, who forgives. God chooses to show God’s light most clearly through human beings, through you and me. This is the glory of God’s humility. The light of God’s love.
Letting Olivia look, smile, and kiss may seem little. This warm-fuzziness cannot dispel the darkness of racial tensions in Ferguson, stop the religious genocide of the Islamic State, lessen the unjust enhanced interrogations inflicted by the US intelligence after 9-11, or take away the allergic reactions I have with certain people with whom I regularly interact. Yet, when I receive such tenderness of God through others and embrace my smallness, life is awakened within. As do joy and peace. I trust that Christ’s light will illuminate darkness within and around me. I am humbled to be awakened by a transformation of tenderness rather than remain asleep in a stupor of fear.