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Christmas: An invitation to an incarnational spirituality; a concrete way of life that has cura personalis at heart

Christmas is about birth; a mysterious birth with its numerous contradictions but not without a relevant message for us: that God is madly in love with our humanity and world as St. Alphonsus intimated, and that God wants to have a divine relationship with us in a human way.

Simply put, this mysterious birth is a message that God cares about our humanity! Celebrating Christmas is thus yet another great opportunity to respond to Christ’s commandment ever anew: “Even as I have loved you, you must also love one another.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35).  And as Pope Francis stated in his 2019 Christmas Message to the Roman Curia: “Jesus does not ask us to love him in response to his love for us; rather, he asks us to love one another as he does. In other words, he asks us to become like him, since he became like us.”

In understanding Christmas this way, we come to appreciate that God exalts humanity in the person of Jesus Christ–the God-Man! And in view of this, the mystery of the Incarnation, that is, God becoming man, becomes a little clearer and practical to us: inviting us to a concrete way of life that has cura personalis at the centre.

The Ignatian-Jesuit charism has among its characteristics the cura personalis, which is Latin for “care for the whole person.” Cura personalis comes down to the respect for all that makes up each individual. It encompasses our responsibility towards others. It makes the case that our talents, abilities, physical attributes, personalities, desires, hearts, faith, and minds are all equally worthy of care and attention.

I regard this characteristic of Ignatian spirituality as a perfect Christmas reflection and a call for you and I to become like Christ just as He became like us; to love ourselves and others: the entire person, the entire gift of life from God given to us.

What, however, are our attitudes and actions towards humanity in our own life and in the lives of others; how do we regard and treat the human person: those who are poor, neglected, marginalised, abandoned and persecuted? How do we uphold, protect and value the dignity of the human being?

Are we indifferent to those in need whom we can help? Do we treat people as mere objects, for the advancement of our own purposes? Are we engrossed in mediocre and selfish use of our talents and skills? Do we have the next generation in mind? Pondering over these and other similar questions in line, leaves us with a hopeless disposition towards our humanity and our world.

But just when we thought our world has lost it again this year, the mad love of God in the person of the Infant Jesus, came gently to visit, amaze and dwell with us; to give our humanity solidarity and companionship in our journey through this adventurous world.

The message and mystery of the incarnation is actually a way of life; an experience that must be concretely lived out at the service of nurturing life, and promoting the care of the human person. When this becomes our way of life, Christmas becomes our everyday spirituality; the Word-takes flesh in us, nourishes and inspires others; and inevitably, the impossible becomes a little possible in and through us. It is this incarnational spirituality that the Christmas message preaches.

That in our happiness, we must have the unhappy in mind; in our freedom, we must think about the oppressed; in our possession and ownership, we must have the poor and needy in mind; in our liveliness, we must have broken humanity at heart. This must lead us to concrete action, for the rhetoric is over; the Word that was with God, the Word that was God has become Man. As such, the words, desires and beautiful dreams must begin to be translated into action. This concrete action is one of love, of sharing, and of solidarity.

Our contemplation of the face of Jesus, the Word made flesh, in the crib must not leave us just delighted and amazed. But as St. Alphonsus beckons us, our amazement must lead us to tenderness, compassion and gratitude in respect of how we have accepted and responded to the great love of God in our own lives and in the lives of others.

Immanuel Kant in his Ethics, can be said to have come close at discovering what Christ came to teach us through his Incarnation, when in his Categorical Imperatives, this German philosopher formulated the maxim: “So act as to treat humanity, both in your own person, and in the person of every other, always at the same time as an end, never simply as a means.”

Christmas is about the inalienable and inviolable worth God has placed in humanity; a message that human life and dignity as well as its flourishing has great purpose and end in the plan of God. Christmas must thus lead us to rethink injustice, poverty, corruption; it must move us to action in favour of justice, working and sharing, advancing the common good, devising means that would promote humanity and advance respect of the dignity of the human person which was exalted in the person of Jesus Christ!

May our celebration of Christmas this year move us to rejoice and to act: for God is with us, and nothing is impossible with Him. May the Spirit and presence of the Emmanuel open us to the mystery of our humanity and inspire us to better service of our brothers and sisters who today reflect the image of Christ in the manger.

May Christmas become a way of life at the service of cura personalis; for in doing so we share and participate in fulfilling God’s dream and vision in the Incarnation. Merry Christmas to you all!!!

Source: Wiz Elikplim

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