Jesus – God: The Mystery of Paradox
Once there was a Rabbi who asked his disciples the following question: “How do you know when the darkness has been overcome, when the dawn has arrived?” One of the disciples answered, “When you can look into the distance and tell the difference between a cow and a deer, then you know dawn has arrived.” “Close,” the Rabbi responded, “but not quite.” Another disciple ventured a response, “When you can look into the distance and distinguish a peach blossom from an apple blossom, then you know that the darkness has been overcome.” “Not bad,” the Rabbi said, “not bad! But the correct answer is slightly different. When you can look on the face of any man or any woman and know immediately that this is God’s child AND your brother or sister, then you know that the darkness has been overcome, that the Daystar has appeared.” This Christmas morning when we celebrate the victory of Light over darkness, the Gospel of John introduces Jesus as the true Light Who came from Heaven into our world of darkness to give us clear vision.
On Christmas Eve, the Gospel that is always read is from Matthew and it is the long list of names called the genealogy. I love it, but many folks are impatient with just a list of names. It is important as Matthew traces the line of Jesus back to Abraham, the father of God’s people. Jesus is truly the fulfillment of God’s plan for Israel, the Chosen People. Most people know the Christmas story from Luke’s perspective since it tells of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and Jesus being born and placed in a manger. He too includes a genealogy of Jesus’ ancestry, and it goes all the way back to Adam, (and Eve) thus embracing the whole human race. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan for all human beings. That is an awesome truth.
Today on Christmas Day, we don’t hear a human list of names, but we learn of the cosmic origins of our Lord. The Gospel of John goes back to God Himself. John is the only Gospel writer who does not stop at Bethlehem to explain the “reason for the season.” John is more concerned with the WHY and WHO of Christmas than with the WHERE of Christmas. So he travels to eternity to reveal the person of Jesus Christ. And “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. This is a great passage because it gives us the theology of Christmas. While the Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful Name is the Word – LOGOS in Greek. The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the “Word of God,” the very Self-expression of God. He was present at creation; He is actually the One through Whom all things were made. The Prologue to the Gospel of John in today’s Gospel, and the Prologue to the Letter to the Hebrews in the second reading, are superb affirmations of the Person of Jesus Christ, expressed in beautiful theological words and metaphors.
John’s Gospel gives a profoundly theological vision of Christ, the result of John’s years of preaching and of meditating on this wondrous mystery of God’s love. While stressing the Divinity of Christ, he leaves no doubt as to the reality of his human nature. In the Prologue of his Gospel, John introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light Who will remove the darkness of evil from the world. He explains later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas: Jesus said “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn 8:12) and in Matthew’s Gospel“You are the light of the world” (Mt 5: 14-16).
John the Evangelist proclaims the Incarnation of God, the most fundamental truth of Christianity, in the inspired words of his Prologue, making the connection between Jesus Christ and the Logos of God. Between the beautiful Nativity stories of Matthew and Luke and the Gospel of John, there lies the great paradox of the Christian Faith, the paradox of the Incarnation, the entering of God into the human story, in human form.
Great truths can only be revealed to our small human minds on small stages. The story is the concrete frame to reveal universal truths. This is important in understanding the development of Scriptures and the understanding of Jesus the Christ. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke which contain the stories of the Nativity of Jesus were written much earlier than the Gospel of John which we hear this morning. The Christmas story as told in Luke and in Matthew is a window for universal truth.
When Jesus was born, his mother laid him in a feeding trough where animals eat straw. What is this saying about the nature of God. God goes to the lowest place on earth. WOW! It is much more than sentimentalism. There is no room for God in the place where travelers stay. These are metaphors of contrast. The divine infinity is put in a place where animals eat straw. God has overcome the gap. God is hiding and now God is revealing His very nature which is cosmic – beyond time and space. This is what John is talking about when He writes: In the beginning was the WORD.
The mystery of the Incarnation means that God has hidden himself in a little human body. It is the perhaps the last place that we humans would think to find God.
It is all a matter of seeing, of having vision. If the Christmas story shows us that God is not just a finite human, but also hidden, then we have a new definition of love. Love is not imposing, manipulative, demanding. Love is seductive, inviting, attractive, humble and simple. Love does not promote itself, but it welcomes people to want to participate in it. Upon seeing the nativity, LOVE INCARNATE, do you want to be a part of this? Are you attracted to this divine love? Do you want to seek Love out and grow in this love? Jesus is waiting for you.
This love is Almighty and it is all vulnerable. God is this mystery of paradox. If God is equally all vulnerable as God is almighty, then God is in human suffering, in Aleppo, in those who suffer terrorist attacks, in those who grieve.
Once again on this great solemnity of the incarnation, we are invited to see, not so much with the eyes of our body as with the eyes of our souls. Today, look into the face of a beloved son or daughter of God and see the divine light.