As we approach Christmas, we have another year’s experiences to reflect on. For some, these were happy and joyful; for others, they may have been painful and difficult. Perhaps you have had to cope with great personal suffering or the loss of a loved one with the grief and heartbreak it brings. For many there will be that mixture of joy and sorrow which is so much part of human life.
The message of Christmas tells us that Jesus is our companion on the journey through life. God has come to live among us in the person of Jesus, born in a stable at Bethlehem on the first Christmas Night. This is the great mystery at the heart of our faith. We can truly say, “Jesus is one of us.” This little phrase reminds me of the words of Father Damien to the lepers on the Island of Molokai; “Now I too am one of you.”
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Fr. Damien, a Belgian priest, chose to work with the lepers on the Island of Molokai. It was a very brave thing to do. He knew that he could never again leave the island, and that he would inevitably get leprosy himself. Miraculously, Damien worked with the lepers for twelve years before he got leprosy. Then one night, when he was washing his feet he found he had lost the feeling in his right foot – the first sign that he had contracted the disease. The following Sunday, he began his sermon with the words: “Now, I too am one of you.” He felt he had now identified with the lepers in their dreadful condition. Fr. Damien was canonised in October 2009 and is now St. Damien.
Perhaps Damien’s words are a helpful way to express the mystery of Christmas. The Baby of Bethlehem is ‘Immanuel’, a name that means ‘God is with us’. We can imagine Jesus saying to us: “Now I too am one of you.” He identifies with us in our humanity, our suffering and our weakness. He takes our sins on Himself. He is with us at the heart of life’s experience; we meet Him where we are, as we live our ordinary, everyday lives. He invites us to enter into and become aware of his power and presence in our world and in our personal lives. Sometimes we can be very aware of this, while at other times, there is just a whisper or gentle touch of His presence that brings help and hope to all who turn to Him in their hearts.
We believe that Jesus is now one of us, one with us, present in our hearts and in our world. When our hearts awaken to His presence, we come to know and experience his Love for us and for all humankind. As we celebrate Christmas, we pray for the grace to open our hearts (and our homes) to the love of Jesus. Jesus invites us to live that love, express it in our lives and share it with others. We are all part of this great ‘mission’ at a personal level but also as a Mill Hill family. Our Mill Hill members on the missions and at home, our families, our friends and benefactors, our sick and elderly, all play a part in helping people to know and believe in God’s great love revealed in Jesus our Saviour who is Immanuel, God with us.
Fr. Jim O’Connell mhm, editor