Fear not!

AT RANDOM - Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, SJ -
Many years ago, because I had a large mailing list, I decided not to buy expensive Christmas cards but to have my own printed: just a simple card with a quotation. At first, the quotations were from my own essays. Then I shifted to short quotations from authors: Newman, Chesterton, Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and others. Then I used biblical quotations: Isaias, the psalms, St. Paul, the Apocalypse. This year, I chose the simplest and most basic message of Christmas, namely, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds: "Fear not! I bring you tidings of great joy to all the people: This day in the city of David is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2.10)

It sounds simple, even banal. Yet that announcement is the most astonishing, the most important, the most radical, the most earth-shaking ever made. The angel says it is news that should bring great joy to all the people. Why? Because a Child has been born who is "the Savior"; "the Christ" – the Anointed One, the long-awaited Messiah. And this Child is "the Lord". He is God-who-has-become-man.

When God became man (as Rahner says) human nature was sanctified. This body of ours – our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, our hands and our feet, all the parts of our body – have become holy, because God himself assumed a body like ours. And all our human operations – walking and resting, eating and drinking, working and sleeping, being tired and hungry, suffering pain, even death itself – all were made holy when God became a human being like us.

In fact, the entire universe (as Teilhard de Chardin says) has become holy. By becoming man, God has become a part of the universe.

The pantheists were on the right path but they made a big mistake. They said that the whole earth is part of God. They should have said that, while the earth is a creature made by God, it has become holy because God, by becoming man, walked the earth and had a body made of earthly elements.

In a recent article in the London Tablet, an English priest says, "All ground is holy ground. The ground you stand on is sacred."

That is why the angel’s announcement to the shepherds is the most important ever made. A Child has been born who is Savior, Christ, Lord. God has become one of us. And we, and everything around us, have been sanctified.

When the angel said "Fear not" he was merely trying to reassure the shepherds not to be afraid at seeing an angel. But in the Bible, whatever the original intention of the speaker was, the words acquire a deeper meaning. For example when Caiaphas said "It is better for one man to die rather than the people perish," (Luke 11:50) he merely meant it was better to murder Jesus rather than risk losing their national identity and customs. But (as St. John observes) he did not realize he was uttering a prophecy and his words had a much wider meaning: Jesus was dying to save the people – all mankind – from eternal death. So also the angel’s words. "Fear not" has a deeper meaning: it is spoken to all of us. Don’t be afraid, there is nothing to fear, God is with us.

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