The Apostle Paul reveals their new identity to the Romans: they are saints, that is, “separated”, chosen and called to belong to the Lord, to live from Him and for Him. This is the fruit of a predilection of love: they are no longer slaves of a human power, no longer bowed to worldly logic, but loved and cherished by God.
In every era of history, humanity has an urgent need to understand itself, its place in the world, and each one of us tries to guess what directs his or her life, giving it meaning, inner peace and beauty. However, all attempts that start from purely human perspectives and simply limited to the temporal horizon, sooner or later collapse, leading to disillusionment and discouragement.
St. Paul announced a radical novelty to the Romans: you are loved by God!
Who doesn’t need to be loved? Who doesn’t feel the unstoppable power of love?
Yet it seems pertinent to observe that we are all looking for reliable and durable love, because we feel most strongly the devastating pain that betrayal can bring.
Here comes the good news my dear sisters and brothers: WE have been made the object of God’s love. In Jesus, God made and makes Himself present in our daily lives. He has reached and reaches out to us whenever we lose our way, oftentimes becoming slaves to sin, death and loneliness.
Jesus, the Word of God made flesh in the womb of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, by His death and glorious Resurrection, broke the yoke of sin, snatched humanity from its loneliness and failure and made the entire human family sharers all in the divine life: He has made us saints by calling us.
Love, in its deepest essence, is free and gratuitous, the ripe fruit of His work of redemption: with a holiness, that is, radical and exclusive belonging to God. As Pope Francis reminds us in Fratelli Tutti: “Love impels us towards universal communion, drawing us toward the concept of social love. For when social love is present, the human heart creates bonds and expands our very existence”.
The reality is this: humanity is left with the freedom to accept or reject this gift, that is, the freedom to let him or herself be loved or to remain a prisoner of solitude, generated by sin and presumption.
We can feel the urgency in St. Paul’s message, he feels compelled to live his mission as an apostle to inspire the obedience demanded by faith from all peoples, and all to the glory of His most holy name.
How can we welcome God’s action within us? How can we let ourselves be transformed by His grace from being slaves into beloved children? How, in a word, can we let ourselves be loved?
The silent and powerful testimony of St. Joseph gives us clear direction.
Faced with a shocking event, such as the pregnancy of his wife Mary, he does not give in to human passions, he does not pursue the ordinary legitimate ways to “gain justice”, he is not primarily concerned with his honour and his male pride, but puts himself in the humble and intelligent pursuit of what is good and noble.
In the painful and prayerful silence of waiting, he opens himself to the knowledge of a Truth that surpasses him. He gives up any notion of being an impetuous judge of the events that happen before his eyes and he waits with patience to receive an announcement that comes from above.
“…do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife, with you.
Indeed, the child that is begotten in her comes from the Holy Spirit.”
St. Joseph, with the humble intelligence of one who does not ever claim to understand everything that comes to pass in his life, allows God to manifest Himself and reveal to him an unexpected perspective, because it is not confined to narrow human logic.
He sees God at work: the child in Mary’s womb comes from the Holy Spirit, for this precise reason he understands he need not fear at all.
When it is Love that reaches out into our life we must never fear: “Timor non est in caritate” (In love there is no fear) (1 Jn 4:18)
In the birth of the Child Jesus, this feast of Christmas that is almost now upon us, let us pray for the grace to contemplate the Love that is revealed in the very flesh of the Child of Bethlehem: let us feel the tingling surprise and pure delight that children feel at Christmas, let us ask for the gift to see life with the same eyes of Mary and Joseph and let us recognize in Jesus the pure Love that flows from Him.
Let us allow ourselves to be loved and to be transformed by Love!
* Custody of the Holy Land
By Fr. Luke Gregory ofm*