Kuruvilla Pandikattu SJ
“Truth has sprung out of the earth” (Ps 85:12) was the theme of the Christmas message of Pope Benedict in 2012, the year of faith.
Pope quotes the full text from the Psalm, where these words are in the future: “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. The Lord himself will give his benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before him, and salvation, along the way of His steps” (Ps 85:11-14).
Pope Benedict adds that these prophetic words have been fulfilled today! In Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, kindness and truth do indeed meet; justice and peace have kissed; truth has sprung out of the earth and justice has looked down from heaven. Saint Augustine explains with admirable brevity: “What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? The flesh. Ask whence Christ has been born, and you will see that truth has sprung out of the earth… truth has been born of the Virgin Mary.”
Again the Pope quotes from a Christmas sermon of Augustine: “in this yearly feast, we celebrate that day, when the prophecy was fulfilled: ‘truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.’ The Truth, which is in the bosom of the Father has sprung out of the earth, to be in the womb of a mother too. The Truth which rules the whole world has sprung out of the earth, to be held in the arms of a woman … The Truth which heaven cannot contain has sprung out of the earth, to be laid in a manger. For whose benefit did so lofty a God become so lowly? Certainly not for his own, but for our great benefit, if we believe” (Sermones 185:1).
The truth has taken on flesh and has lived with us. Following Indian-Spanish theologian Raimundo Panikkar, we can affirm that God has become not only human, but also earthly. The living and loving God has become flesh, the earth, the mud and dust.
The earth and dust, the mud and the clay are not always beautiful and pleasant. The parched earth and the dusty road makes our walking rough and tough. That is precisely what the Christians in India are experiencing today. Some of the victims of Khandamal violence are still in jail! There is a sense of fear and disillusionment, especially among the Christians who live in villages. There is a general sense of impending danger.
It is precisely at these troubled times that our faith come to our solace. Our faith in a God who has taken on the rough and dirty earth and flesh should enable us to reach out even to our enemies. There is no way a Christian can take revenge or retaliate, since love is His only answer to all the challenges facing Him.
Can we reach out to the others, especially those who are against us, in dialogue, compassion and respect? Though difficult, it is still possible. That is the Christian hope for today.
The best imagery for that is Pope Francis embracing Vinicio Riva at the Vatican in early November, 2013, who had completely disfigured face, due to the disease called neurofibromatosis Pope. After that Riva remarked: “He didn’t have any fear of my illness.”
Unfortunately it is not only our bodies that are disfigured. But our collective soul, which has become narrow-minded, suspicious. So the Christmas challenge to us to embrace the bruises and disfiguration of both our body and soul.
While protecting our own rights and dignity, can we free our own disfiguration? Of the body and soul? Can we embrace our “rivals” and “enemies” and make them also see the disfiguration of our collective soul? Can we enable the truth to spring out? Respectfully, dialogically and lovingly! Without fear! Merry Christmas of flesh, blood, earth and dust!