“What does the birth of Jesus mean?”

translated by Fr. Mike Mendl, SDB

“What does the birth of Jesus mean?”

“I’ll stay with you; I won’t forget you!” (Annetta, age 7)
“Thank you, O Lord, for preserving the contacts between the earth and Heaven.” (Ninnina, age 12)

I saw a photograph of two infants, two or three years old, one with black skin and the other with white skin. The infant with black skin was caressing the white infant, instinctively and affectionately. The deep feeling conveyed by such a natural gesture suggested to me the message I should address to you with my best wishes for a Holy Christmas 2015.

My beloved Salesian Family spread throughout the world, friends of don Bosco, of his educational system, and of his works, we are going through a period of time tragically interwoven with violence, fear, and senseless persecution, a time of hatred and discrimination, a time of armaments. Perhaps mankind has never experienced anything like it.

Certainly I’m not forgetting the First and Second World Wars, which we can’t erase from our cultural memories lest anything so fearful ever be repeated. But neither can I avoid painful reference to this wave of violence that is overrunning our world.

When we began to think that with the end of the “Cold War” between the two great blocs the world would be on its way toward a long and stable peace, a whirlwind of great and small conflicts burst out, rooted in terrorism, selective aggression, coldly calculated to turn into real civil wars. That’s happened in Syria, and the never-before-seen exodus is the most evident expression of all this. We’re all surprised and confused by this.

We ask ourselves: what’s happening to us? Where has our profound humanism gone? What has become of our search for the common good, the well-being of everyone? Where are the results so awaited and the successes announced and hoped for from the agreements that all peoples reached in the United Nations? Where were all these cruel and devastating ideologies born? What good have all the efforts of the Nobel Peace Prize done?

I look at the two infants, one white and the other black, and I think that’s the answer. Children don’t know the word race, nor the ideologies that segregate and slay. Hence they can be friends.

The bottom line of our discourse we’ve read many times in the Gospel: only a pure heart, uncorrupted and uncontaminated, like that of children, will enter Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s Christmas and we’re celebrating precisely this Mystery of God’s Mad Love, as Paul Evdokimov wrote. This is the mystery of the Incarnation, a Mad Love for the human creature and the world where we dwell. And this human creature, in too many movements and regions, in daily events and convulsions, travels on a street of violence, sorrow, terror, and death.

“A child is born for us; a son is given to us,” Sacred Scripture says (Is 9:5)—a child who is like the children of every age, not knowing ideologies or differences; a child who is the true messenger of Peace, the human face of God, destined to undergo violence and a bloody death.

My friends, beloved readers: let’s allow our hearts to be touched by this ardent invitation to peace, to the end of every ideology and prejudice, to the search for a real brotherhood.

We can do it. This ideal for humanity isn’t an ideology; it’s a dream that can be realized, on a smaller scale, in the measure in which each of you and I myself make any kind of gesture of true humanity, any kind of embrace that overcomes the color of one’s skin, makes every encounter authentically human and respectful, overcomes every inequality and personal difference.

I invite you, then, to live this Christmas with a little madness, responding to the mad love of God, dreaming on a grand scale, but translating that into simple, specific actions.

Believe me: if violence is a virus that can be transmitted, that’s contagious, and that’s learned in daily life, so can tenderness, respect, gratitude, warmth and friendliness be conveyed, even taking into account individual differences and roles; like other aspects of a life fully human, these are learned and transmitted person to person.

All of us together, a step at a time, let’s proclaim even in our most ordinary actions: no escalation of violence! – because we want to be like children and not know ideologies that divide and kill, and because an child has been born for us, a son has been given to us, the Son of God, on this Christmas and forever.

May God who is Love bless you and your families.

Merry Christmas in this year of grace, the bicentennial year of St. John Bosco’s birth.

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