March 24, 2019

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    Birth of Jesus brings joy, freedom to humanity - Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith

    December 25, 2018

    It is known that those visiting the birth place of Jesus in Bethlehem have to enter The Church of the Nativity through a narrow and short door, almost in a posture of stooping down.History has it that those who built the Church, did not want any king, knight or a mighty one to go straight to the place of Jesus’ birth in a disrespectful manner but in a posture of humility, states Archbishop of Colombo His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith in a Christmas message.

    The message: “Such was the manner in which humanity considered and honoured Jesus as the most Holy Son of God to bring joy and freedom to humanity.And yet this birth took place in the humblest of circumstances. The Nativity story as it is, recounted by the Gospels reveals a series of paradoxes.

    “Kings, knights and nobles who came to the church on horseback, and wanted to visit the Grotto, could not do so, but needed to dismount their horses and eneter the Church stooping down through that door. Indeed, the place of the most noble birth of God among men had to be approached humbly by all. Besides, one had to use a narrow flight of steps to go down to what is considered to be the Manger or cave in which Jesus was born.

    I quote Pope Francis:“It speaks of the emperor, the governor, the high and mighty of those times; yet God does not make Himself present there. He appears not in the splendour of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable; not in pomp and show, but in simplicity of life; not in power, but in astonishing smallness. In order to meet Him, we need to go where He is. We need to bow down, to humble ourselves, to make ourselves small. The newborn Child challenges us. He calls us to leave behind fleeting illusions and to turn to what is essential, to renounce our insatiable cravings…….

    “We do well to leave such things behind, in order to discover, in the simplicity of the divine Child, peace, joy and luminous meaning of life”.(Homily of the Christmas Midnight Mass at the Vatican Basilica on December 24. 2016)

    Even if that is so, yet, unfortunately, Christmas today, does not seem to be understood in relation to that deeply spiritual portrayal of Jesus, by the Gospels and the mission for which He was sent. The world has twisted Christmas into a fairy tale affair. After the Christmas night, like with Cinderella who is terrified at hearing the clock strike mid-night, realism of the challenges we face strike us with a bang. We discover that it was just another empty show and ened up having to sell old newspapers and empty bottles to make ends meet thereafter.

    True enough, Christmas is a joyful moment but that joy comes more from being able to make others happy, especially those whose lives are constantly pushed to experience being abandoned, unknown and unwanted.They are ones whose lives are constantly in the sight of God’s love. And so, we need to be sensitive to their sufferings and not let ourselves be enslaved by a rampant spirit of egoism that prevails in the market place.Quoting Pope Francis once again: “Today too, that same indifference can exist, whenever Christmas becomes a holiday with ourselves at the centre rather than Jesus; when the lights of shop windows push the life of God into the shadows; when we are enthused about gifts but indifferent to our neighbours in need.

    This worldliness has kidnapped Christmas; we need to liberate it. (Homily at the Christmas mid night Mass at the Vatican Basilica on December 24, 2016)Pathetically, in much of the world Christmas is lived without Christ at the Centre. Shops full of things that are pleasing tour eyes or to our taste buds; neon lights, reverberating music; gala dinners with wine, women and song, newspapers full of advertisements inviting us to a gluttonous Christmas celebration, marks, the season. Even in Sri Lanka hotels, advertize such dinners for people who wish to engage in frivolous orgies of eating and drinking.

    It is a scandal to the poor. In most towns Santa Claus is an object of marketing. It has nothing to do with the figure of St. Nicholas, the 4th century n Holy Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor who would make hundreds of children happy with gifts tied to good behavious especially during Christmas time. The Santa Claus of the market place sells goods but does njot help the poor.It is in this light that we Christians need to make a conscious option not to let Christmas loose its original meaning and nobility. It is a time to enlarge our hearts to both welcome the Son of God born in the manger and the poor with untold expressions of respect and love for it is Jesus who comes to us in them.

    “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me” (Matthew 25: 45)

    May I then, wish you all a happy and holy Christmas and n a joy filled New Year 2019!Wishing you all God’s abundant blessings! Yours devotedly in Christ”

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