Monday, December 24, 2018

The language of God


Christmas midnight mass


Luke 2:1-14 

The Parable of the "Language of God" by Rev. Joseph Healy goes this way:

Once upon a time there was a man in the Serengeti District of western Tanzania called Marwa. In the sixth grade he studied the Christian religion. At Baptism he chose the name Emmanuel which means "God is with us." After finishing high school Emmanuel read magazines and books about God. He believed that God is truly present among us, but he asked: "What language does God speak?"

Emmanuel posed his special question to different church leaders in his village. The old catechist answered. "I think that God speaks Latin." The chairperson of the parish council guessed, "God speaks our local language Ngoreme." But the searching youth Emmanuel had doubts. "When I get the right answer," he said to himself, "I’ll know immediately and feel great joy." So the young African set off on a journey. In the neighboring parish he asked again: "What language does God speak?" One Christian suggested Kuria, another local language.

Again Emmanuel had doubts. He began to travel across the whole of Tanzania visiting small towns and big cities. In one place the Christians were certain that God spoke Swahili. People in western Tanzania said Sukuma while residents in the northeast said Chagga. Emmanuel was not satisfied with these answers. Remembering the African saying -- "traveling is learning" -- he journeyed outside Tanzania. The Kenyans said Kikuyu and the people of Uganda answered, "God speaks Ganda." In West Africa he got different replies: Lingala in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Hausa in Nigeria and Arabic in Morocco.

He decided to travel the whole world if necessary. Passing through Europe he was told "French, German and Italian." The Christians of North America said "English" while South Americans replied, "Spanish." In his heart the young Tanzanian knew that these answers were inadequate. Determined to find the real truth he went to China where the local people insisted that God speaks Mandarin or Cantonese. Emmanuel was tired from his long travels but he resolutely pushed on. In India he was told Hindi. He reached Israel late in December. The local inhabitants said, "Surely God speaks Hebrew."

Exhausted by his long travels and the unsatisfactory answers, Emmanuel entered the town of Bethlehem. The local hotels were filled. He looked everywhere for a place to stay. Nothing was available. In the early morning hours he came to a cave where cows and sheep were sheltered. He was surprised to see a young woman with her newborn baby.

This young mother said to the traveling youth, "Welcome, Emmanuel, you are very welcome." Astonished to hear his name, the young African listened in awe as the woman called Mary continued: "For a very long time you have traveled around the world to find out what language God speaks. Your long journey is over. God speaks the language of love. God loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Overjoyed to hear these words of Mary the young Tanzanian understood Gods language of love for all people, for all races, for all nations. Emmanuel exclaimed, "Truly, today God is with us.""

This parable reminds of how powerful this language is more than all other languages.   It is not like the language we've used in as we communicate to others everyday.  How do we use the language of love in the sinful areas of our lives? I shall use the images coming from the gospel.

First, no room at the inn.  "Sorry, there's no more room left." The first act of violence done to our Lord is closing the doors for him to work in us.  But how did the Holy Family tackle this?  Not through hatred, but through a quiet understanding and acceptance of man's wounded humanity.  This is a language of love.

Second, Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and placed him in a manger.  These are signs of abject poverty.  While we wallow in material things, our dedication to help our brothers and sisters remains wanting.  We keep them wearing swaddling clothes.  How did Jesus tackle this?  Jesus identified himself with them so we may remember Jesus in our suffering brothers and sisters.  This is love.

Third, the night. The night represents the darkness of sin and hopelessness. How did heaven tackle this?  Angels lit up the night sky and sang "Glory to God in the highest".  The night cannot dispel the light.  That light is the hope in our hearts that no matter how violent, how poor, and how rejecting situations are, nothing can stand in the way of the Lord to help and save us.  We should light up our lives for others.  Then our Christmas would be complete!

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