Editor’s Note: FMS Executive Director, Liz Hughes, reflects on the joy and love that can be found in the presence of God’s unfathomable love.
Upon entering my brother’s home, it’s common for my 16-month old nephew, Benjamin, to squeal with delight and then hide behind the couch, eager to engage in our favorite game of hide-and-seek. Sometimes, instead of hiding behind the couch, Benjamin sits next to me and covers his eyes. He giggles, believing that he is hiding. If he cannot see me, then I must not be able to see him. In the toddler world that we have all experienced, we can only imagine a fraction of the vastness beyond our immediate selves.
What if this image parallels the greatness of God’s love for us? Just as Benjamin cannot fathom that I can see him despite his covered eyes, I believe that God’s all-encompassing love is so much larger than our human selves can truly understand. It is a love that we celebrate on this Christmas Day.
This past October, I visited Greccio, Italy, where St. Francis staged the first live nativity on Christmas Eve 1223. With Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs, we celebrated mass in the grotto where Francis’ crèche once laid. The vastness of God’s love is so great that God came to earth as a tiny, naked, helpless baby. God held nothing back. God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. In that cool, quiet grotto, I felt the vastness of God’s love. Love blooms through the Incarnation, the free and intentional expression of God’s overflowing love for humanity. Love blooms through an innocent and vulnerable baby.
The beauty of Christmas is that the Incarnation is the beginning of the story. We are called to be an incarnational people, vessels of God’s vast love who generously share it with – and receive it from — others.
One week later, I was on a new pilgrimage. After experiencing the sacred places where God encountered St. Francis and St. Clare in 13th century Assisi, I then witnessed God encountering FMS missioners, Tim Shelgren and Cindy Mizes, in modern day Jamaica. Yet again, the vastness of God’s love poured forth. Instead of experiencing love through the quiet stillness of God’s presence, this time love was manifested through relationships and in community. During the visit, a woman with cancer in its advanced stages walked for the first time in months, encouraged by the prayers and cheers of her fellow residents. Cindy tenderly prepared a booklet of art with drawings created by another hospice resident, and was met with stoic tears when she gave it to him, as he knew that she would soon be returning to the United States. Together, we sang, ate, and laughed. God’s great love – vaster than I can ever truly comprehend – was present among us that afternoon. Love blooms through an incarnational people who, like Benjamin, laugh in delight and savor the present moment.
Reflection Question: In what aspects of your faith is Christ inviting you to let go of the need to understand, and rather embrace joy?