John says that Jesus, the Son of God, lived with the Father in glory. All life owed its existence to him. But then he came into our world as one of ourselves. He came to share his divine life with us so that we too could become children of the Father. ‘We saw his glory’, says John. ‘He was full of grace and truth, and from his fullness we have all received’. We are dealing with a great mystery – the mystery of God’s love for us in Christ. Here is a parable which I hope will shed a little light on this great mystery.
Once upon a time there was a prince who loved a humble maiden. As heir to the throne, he of course was very famous and powerful. He knew that if he married the girl, she would naturally become queen and this would make her happy. But when he thought about it, he realised that something would be missing in her happiness. She would always admire him and thank him. But she would not be able to love him, for the inequality between them would be too great. She would never be able to forget her humble origins and his exalted origins.
So he decided on another way. As yet she knew nothing about his love for her. Instead of making her queen, he decided to renounce his kingship. He would become a commoner and then offer her his love as an equal. In doing so he realised that he was taking a great risk. He was doing something that would appear very foolish in the eyes of all his wise men. He would lose his kingship, and run the risk of being rejected by her, especially if she resented losing the queen ship.
Yet he decided to take the risk. It was better, he thought, to risk everything in order to make real love possible. Accordingly, he left the royal palace. He put aside the robes of a prince and donned those of an ordinary man. Then he befriended the maiden and offered his love to her.
The love of the prince was absolutely pure. He was not seeking anything for himself. The girl, however, found this hard to believe because she didn’t think such love existed among humans. But then a further problem arose. She had a very low image of herself. She didn’t think she was worthy of anyone’s love. She couldn’t under-stand that anyone would love her for herself. But then one day, in a sudden burst of faith and trust, she threw her heart open and accepted the man’s love. And all at once her poor, empty heart was ﬂooded with love.
Then an even lovelier thing happened. Once she had accepted the young man’s unconditional love, she began to believe in her own goodness. When this happened she found that she could love in return. And they both were very happy for real love existed between them. Now had the prince come as a prince, real love would not have been possible.
In the same way, if Jesus had come on earth with all the glory of his divinity, everybody would have trembled before him. They would not only have accepted him, but would have fallen down to worship him. But he did not want this. He knew that this kind of submission would never bring us happiness.
So what did he do? He came in humility and weakness. He wanted to gain our love so that we would follow him of our own free will. He wanted our freely given love rather than the servile rapture of slaves.
Of course there was a risk involved. He was leaving himself open to rejection. People might not accept him. They might not see ‘the glory’ he wished to confer on them. And this is exactly what happened. John says: ‘His own people did not accept him.’ But some did accept him. To these he gave a share of his divine life.
By becoming human like us, Jesus made real love possible between us. First of all he loved us with a real human love. He carried this love to the limits of unselfishness – he gave his life for us. It is when we accept his love for us that we are “filled with his glory’. We experience our goodness as children of God, and we are able to love in return. Real love becomes possible between us. By loving others we share with them the riches Christ has bestowed on us. Thus they too can see his glory and be ﬁlled.
Charity, in the original Christian meaning of the word, is not in the first place about giving money or things. We can give money and things without getting personally involved. Charity is about self-giving. We see the best example of it in Christ.
‘People are as afraid of love as of hate.’ (Thoreau).
‘Christ is the source and the only source of charity and the spiritual life.’ (Thomas Merton)
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
Let us pray to God through Christ our Brother, who assumed our human nature, with all its strengths and weaknesses, to show us what we can become. R. Lord, save us through your coming.
For the people of God: that they may die to sin and live to holiness. [Pause]. We pray to the Lord.
For our leaders: that they may show special concern for the most needy and vulnerable members of our society. [Pause]. We pray to the Lord.
For all those who are labouring under a burden of fear, or guilt, or despair. [Pause]. We pray to the Lord.
That by accepting the love of Christ we may grow in grace, and in the freedom of the children of God. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
Father, our source of life, you know our weakness. May we reach out with joy to grasp the hand you stretch out to us in Christ, and so walk more readily in your ways. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
A man and his wife (both staunch Christians)
were going into an exhibition of paintings
by a promising young artist,
when they passed a beggar sitting on the steps.
The wife gave him a few pence,
but the husband scolded her, saying:
‘I never give anything to his kind,
because they only go off and drink it.’
Inside, one painting greatly impressed the husband.
It was a painting of an old beggar man.
‘It’s so realistic,’ he exclaimed.
‘Look at the patches on the beggar‘s coat,
the dirt on his hands,
the sadness in his eyes,
and the indifference of the passersby. It‘s beautiful.’
He bought it for £400.
We have no problem recognising Christ in church.
But when we meet him out on the streets,
where he is sometimes sunk in poverty and sorrow,
we are reluctant to give him even a penny,
on the wretched pretext that if we fed him,
we might feed his vices too.