By Father Roch Kereszty
Special to The Texas Catholic
At Christmas time we like to look at the newborn baby Jesus with the eyes of the heart and try to imagine the unimaginable: the God who holds in his “hand” the more than 50 billion galaxies of the fast expanding universe has chosen so to “compress himself” that he became present with his infinite being, power and tenderness in the Virgin’s womb. (St. Bernard speaks about the Verbum abbreviatum, “the shortened Word.”) Jesus, however, did not come merely to be looked at. He wants to come not only near us but into us so that he can mold us into his likeness. This is his purpose in every Holy Communion and in every prayer when we remove the obstacles to his entering.
So that the enormity of the challenge to become like him not frighten us, he makes our task very simple. He takes a little child, places him in front of us, hugs him and declares: “Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3-4). Most of us, I assume, have been fascinated by the eyes of a little baby when she was in a good mood. (Forgive me, fathers, “she” here stands for both genders). There shines a trusting, happy curiosity in her eyes as she sizes up the world around her: she knows that this world is good and exciting and that it is all for her. In the arms of her mother she feels absolutely safe because she knows that her mother and father are almighty and will always provide for her.
Christians know that the baby in whom all these marvelous qualities are realized is the Son of God in Mary’s arms. That is why St. Bernard tells us: “be like this child” who came from the Father’s heart into the womb of his mother to lead us back into Paradise. He wants to enter into our hearts to mold them into the likeness of his heart. He will rejuvenate our eyes to perceive the fresh beauty of sun and star, snow and rain, fields and forests, deers and bears, and to enjoy the dazzling variety of people around us. Yes, in this child we regain our childhood, while at the same time we will grow into the strength of mature adulthood. Even humility, the hardest of all virtues, will be made easy if we conform our hearts to his: we will know that we cannot do anything without our Father and all that we have is his gift. We try to do our best to love Him, but at the same time we know that our “Abba,” our “dear Father,” loves us as he loves his first-begotten Son. We reach here our greatest benefit, the conformation to the child Jesus: we will be treated not merely as God’s creatures but elevated to the status of God’s dear children. This grace is infinitely more than a legal adoption. St. John speaks about the seed of God that makes us share in his own divine life (1Jn 3:9).
If we are God’s children, we will recognize our fellow humans as our brothers and sisters and treat them as such. Those who are hungry and homeless and jobless are a special blessing for us: they make it possible for us to prove that we are indeed God’s children if we care for them and effectively help them (not just at Christmas time but throughout our lives) as the dear brothers and sisters of the infant Jesus deserve.
Father Roch Kereszty, O.Cist., is a theologian and monk at the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas in Irving. His column will appear occasionally in The Texas Catholic.