Fr. Francis Scaria
In our country we are used to a VVIP culture. We never find a Minister, a Member of Parliament or Member of a legislative Assembly standing in a queue to get any work done like the common people. At the airports and railway station, they have special considerations and treatment. On the road they are found exempted from all rules. It is seldom that we find the VVIPs giving up their privileges to experience what the common man goes through in everyday life. Exceptions and exemptions mark the life of the VVIPs. Higher one climbs this ladder of authority, higher the tendency to claim and enjoy such benefits which make them stand out in society. If this malady begins to corrupt the Church leaders, then she is bound to lose her credibility.
When the vehicles of some VVIPs are to take a certain route, hours prior to their travel common people are put at inconvenience in the name of their safety, and security.
In the event of Incarnation, the Almighty, the Supernatural, the Supreme Being, the Unmoved Mover, the Omniscient God challenges this VVIP Culture. He becomes so small for us. He embraces even the most inhuman conditions of a manger to be born. He lives like an itinerant preacher who had nowhere to lay his head. Finally he abandons even the comfort of having a bed for a peaceful death. He chose to experience what the most hated criminals experienced – hanging naked on three nails of the Cross in excruciating pain, dying with tears in his glowing eyes, witnessed by a ridiculing crowd.
St. John the Baptist came to “level all mountains” and prepare the way for Jesus. But how could anyone imagine that the Almighty God would be levelled to the most abject conditions of human living? This was not something imposed on him, but freely chosen by him. He had already said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (Jn 10:18).
What a marvellous ideal set by our Master! St. Paul captured this mystery to some extent. That is why he was able to say: “Christ Jesus... though he was in the form of God did not regard his equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” (Phil 2:6-7) The Letter to the Hebrews says, “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb 5:8).
We find the greatest of human beings in history resembling the Son of Man. St. Francis of Assisi gave up the status of a VVIP, of being the son of a rich and prominent textile merchant in Assisi and adopted the life of a beggar. He resembled the Son of Man so much that he came to be known as the ‘Second Christ’.
Mahatma Gandhi who was not a professed Christian gave up all privileges, abandoned even the comfort of wearing a shirt to accept the divine levelling. In birth and death which are beyond our management, all human beings experience the same state of realities. There is no VVIP culture permitting a different way of being born. At death, the Almighty has designed the bodies of all the rich and the poor, of all the learned and the illiterate to get disintegrated into the same earth. Could there be a Christian message more eloquently taught by Jesus? This self-emptying required humility, the single virtue our Divine Master asked us to learn from him. “Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Mt 11:29).
Anyone who visits the Mother House in Kolkata where Mother Teresa lived is soon overtaken by amazement to see the humble room which accommodated an outstanding saint of recent times, highly acclaimed by people all over the world.
May this challenge haunt us everyday until we feel one with those who live in the most inhuman conditions on this planet. Praise the Lord.
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