At 18 years old, I was a novice of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit in Tlalpan, a suburb of Mexico City. As part of our formation in those two years of intense vocational discernment, we used to have the Blessed Sacrament exposed for our worship day and night without interruption. Each of the novices was assigned at least one hour during the day and another hour at night for prayer.
One day talking to my mother, I explained that I was tired because of the lack of sleep as a result of this pious practice. To that, my mother replied in a condescending expression, “And you get tired with that?” She added, “As a mother I used to be awakened three or four times every night to feed you and change your diapers when you were a baby, just as I also did with each of your nine siblings. When contemplating you and the rest of my babies, my heart rose to God, as I saw the miracle of life in such of fragile being, a human being in need of everything and yet so full of immaculate purity, in whom I contemplated God with the deepest gratitude and joy.” After that conversation, I never again complained about my sacrifice for God. That day my mother gave me a great lesson of human love and deep faith, a lesson given from an authentic believer.
In his 1999 apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, Pope John Paul II emphasizes that Jesus is “the human face of God and the divine face of man.” For me, that is the synthesis of Christmas. The Word of God became one of us, became human, became a baby, to teach us all the greatness of being a human. To teach us that we have the capacity to house in our flesh and in our world his divine presence, the presence that defeats sin and overcomes death.
That little baby in Mary’s arms was our God in diapers! Our God become a baby to teach us day by day and step by step the greatness and dignity of being human, created in his image and likeness. For 30 years, Jesus devoted himself to joyfully learning what it meant to have a family, affection, tenderness and deep communication beyond words. Day by day, Jesus learned to laugh, to cry, to be tired, to search, to need, to fail, to achieve, to develop, to thank, to believe, to try, to pray, to transform and to trust. As a man, Jesus learned day after day that freedom needs to be built, trust must be practiced, faith must be lived, that justice is an experience, that joy needs to be shown, that peace must be felt, that humanity needs to be discovered, that goals are dreams and that true love in this world is generated hour after hour with our actions.
I believe that God continues to use diapers on every baby that comes into this world. God wants to continue using diapers to remind us that in spite of all our mistakes or our slow learning over the centuries, he doesn’t regret giving us the freedom to continue molding with our existence the human face of God and make humanity aim to have the divine face of man. This continuous human divinization happens every time a person answers “Yes” to forgiveness, charity, solidarity, fraternity and freedom. This perennial divine humanization continues to happen every time that a woman or a man answers with a “Yes” to tenderness, friendship, sharing, working and dreaming.
Jesus the baby did not accelerate in any way his humanization; I am sure that in each moment of his life he discovered the terrifying greatness of being human. He also experienced the immense power of
our heart and the risk of not wanting to grow and mature to correct our mistakes. Baby Jesus became an adult to demonstrate to us the beauty of growing immersed in this world without becoming contaminated with envy, lust, vanity, or greed. To show the evil one, Satan, that nothing is greater and stronger than God's love for his people.
May Mary, the believer who wrapped God in diapers, continue to teach us to be fully human, showing God’s nearness to all, and fully divine so that we have the strength to defeat evil and keep on building the kingdom that Jesus desired with his birth.
Greetings full of joy and my prayer for a holy Christmas.
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - December 2018
Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.Website: www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Archdiocese/auxiliaries.aspx