It has been quite a year. As parish priest of 5 parishes, life is a little complicated these days. The last two years have been burdensome both physically and emotionally. Personally though, it was Tutu’s passing away that ripped my heart. This has been incredibly hard.
It was December 3. I had just finished the Sunday 5pm Mass. I went back to the sacristy and a surprise awaited me. Sitting on the sacristy table what this toy puppy and a card. The card read: “Merry Christmas Fr. Satish. I am lost. Please hug me and keep me safe. My name is Gatsby. Thank you.” The card was not signed. I think it is a child. [It better be a child]. My eyes were beginning to well up. I got out there as quickly as I could, came to my room, held this big-eyed toy puppy and broke down. I am 57 years old. I have a Ph.D in theology. But that night, I wept like a child.
On one level, it was Gatsby and the card that touched me deeply. But I think there was something more profound. You see, in the midst of my very complicated, complex, and emotionally sensitive life – someone showed me tenderness. An innocent, gentle, loving, caring, perhaps shy child showed me love and tenderness that I cannot put into words. That night was my silent night.
2000 years ago, life for the average person in Palestine was fragile, complicated, and complex. Into this very fragile, complicated, and complex world came love and tenderness. It came in the form of an innocent, gentle, loving, caring, and perhaps shy child. This child had a name. Scripture says, “They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, God with us.’” Really, His name Jesus Christ.
Over the course of human history, God has been known in many and various ways. But since that first Christmas, God will forever be known by love and tenderness. Jesus was born and he grew up. As he began his ministry, we read that some people loved his work and others beginning to be skeptical. It did not change him. He continued to bring the love and tenderness of God to the people. He moved among them, touched their lives, spoke tenderly to them, fed them, ate and drank with sinners, and even when they put him on the cross, he continued to show love and tenderness. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” Christmas, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and finally Easter – it is all the love and tenderness of God.
Today, our world remains as complicated as it was that first Christmas. Nothing could be more ironical than the violence, war, and brutality in the very land where Jesus was born. It is one thing to have a just war. It’s quite another to have innocent, men, and women children massacred in the same land, where 2000 years ago Herod massacred innocent children. This morning I prayed, “If today was the incarnation, where would 'the Christ' be born?' I heard a little voice say, "In the very same place... amidst the rubble, barbed wires, carnage, starvation, death and destruction." For He came to save us from our inhumanity!
Around the world, in our country and even in the church, division and hate run rampant. In this world, we have gathered to celebrate Christmas. If there is anything our world and we need, it is love and tenderness.
Two thousand years ago, a little child taught us love and tenderness. On December 3, a little child taught me love and tenderness. Today, this is my prayer, that the love and tenderness that kissed the world on that first Christmas will kiss us again. Today, my prayer is that, touched by the God who came to us as love and tenderness, today, tomorrow and in the New year, we will bring that love and tenderness to our hurting world.
Fr. Satish Joseph