December 2022 Allocutio

“Behold I stand at your door …”

Fr. Paul Churchill

Every child born needs to be received and helped. God who became man is no different. The baby Jesus reaches out to us asking our welcome. There can be no doubt about how much Mary, assisted by Joseph, received and welcomed her Son. But while Mary and Joseph were doing their best, the sad events following King Herod’s learning of Jesus’ arrival warn us of how negativity about anyone can impact also on many others.

While we can grow up and stand for ourselves, there is, in all of us, a desire to be accepted, appreciated, respected. When we try our best but fall short due to a limitation of energy or time or other circumstances, we would like that to be understood and respected rather than to be put down as a failure. If we do something with a right motive we would like that to be acknowledged rather than to be rejected as doing it for some inferior agenda.

God-become-man shows that he too shared in our human vulnerability. That is manifested when he has to be saved from Herod’s paranoia. But it shows up later when his vulnerability shines out in his agony and passion. “Could you not watch one hour with me?” Or, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!” His words, “I thirst” on the Cross have always been interpreted as not just the expression of a physical need but more of a deep need in his soul: he thirsts for love, our love. His words to Mary and St. John from the Cross show how much he appreciated their presence.

In some religious families you will find those words “I thirst” placed above or under an image of the Crucified one. Christ is thirsting for our love. He thirsted for it from the first moment of his coming among us and found a response from Mary his mother, who indeed welcomes him on all our behalf. St Joseph welcomes him too as did the shepherds and the magi. But now it is our turn.

When you look on him in the crib with his arms outstretched, don’t see there the strong God who came to die nobly on the Cross. He wants us to see rather how needy he is, how vulnerable. He wants us to take him up in our arms and make him welcome, to reassure him, because as St. Paul said, “He became as all men are” (Phil 2:7).

How often did he compare himself to the vulnerable of the world? “I was hungry and you fed me, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me. Whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do to me” (Mt 25::35s). Jesus is not just speaking idealistically or metaphorically. By becoming one with us in this world he made himself most vulnerable and made himself to be needy. Out of heaven he is, effectively in this world, a lost child. Mary welcomed him and clothed him, fed him and came to his final moments, standing beside his death-bed, the Cross. We too should welcome him as she did. He needs us to love him, to take him into our hearts and to reassure him that he is loved.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock …” Jesus is knocking at all our hearts in hope. He wants us to open and welcome him in. He wants to make his home with us. Jesus portrayed as strong and Lord, as the judge and final arbitrator of history, might be challenging to connect with, put you off. But if we see him as the vulnerable one thirsting to be taken into the fold of our love, then, it becomes so much easier to relate to him. The little baby of Bethlehem is God saying to us, “I am not a threat, rather I need your love and help!”

All of us in the Legion should try like John to stand with Mary. Let us welcome him with her, let us cloth him with her, let us feed him with her and let us stand beside the sick-bed with him. This can be done in our prayer but then can be done in those who are presented to us in their needs. Indeed every other human being deep down is looking to be respected and loved and made welcome.

And if we ask her who first and most deeply responded to this little one who is so fragile from his birth to his burial and ask her help to respond to his needs, and pray for this gift with humility, she will help us.

May I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a very blessed 2023. Amen.