A Gift from Bethlehem
What I Learned from a Palestinian Orphan
By Fr. Andy Davy, MIC (Dec 23, 2011)
Christmas is a time of discovering incarnationally the mystery of the Divine Mercy, of God's closeness to us and of His tender desire that "all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4). As St. Therese of Lisieux beautifully remarked: "A God who became so small, could only be mercy and love."
With this in mind, I would like to share with you an experience I had on pilgrimage while in the little town of Bethlehem two winters ago. While in Bethlehem, I was able to visit a Palestinian orphanage that is home to many children of difficult backgrounds. One of these children melted my heart — a little boy with Down Syndrome. One of our other pilgrims gave this little one for me to hold. Amusingly, this child found out that my priestly collar was detachable. He then proceeded to yank it off my neck, wave it around as one brandishes a sword, and lastly chew on it.
I tried many tactics to get my white collar back. Finally, I pulled out the secret weapon: I started to sing a lullaby to him. But what happened next I was not prepared for. As I started to sing to him, he instantly calmed down and looked right into my eyes. That little piercing glance made me break off my singing, because in the eyes of this little Bethlehem boy, I felt as though I were looking into the face of the baby Jesus. Unexpected tears begin to surface in my eyes. Later, as I wanted to share this beautiful child with other pilgrims, I handed him over to another person. But this little child turned right back in my direction, reached out for me, and I took him up again. A second time this happened when I put the child on the ground to play. The child, on his tummy, looked at me, arched his back, and put his little hands up in the air as if to say, "Pick me up, father!"
How could I say no? This little guy captured my heart ... I had to pick him up again (and then he started to take my collar and eat it again!!!).
Reflecting on this incident, I felt the Lord was giving me a visual of what the mystery of Christmas was all about. Just like the littleness of this Palestinian orphan captured my heart, Christ also made Himself little at Christmas so that we would not fear Him and that He would be irresistible, moving us to welcome Him into our hearts. Consider the beautiful words of Pope Benedict XVI as he wrote two years on the mystery of Christmas:
... God reveals Himself in the tiny fingers of the Child Jesus ... at Christmas, God truly has become Emmanuel, God-with-us, from whom no barrier or distance can separate us. In this Child, God has come so near to each one of us, so close, that we can address Him with confidence and maintain with Him a trusting relationship of deep affection, as we do with a newborn. In this Child, in fact, God-Love is manifested: God comes without weapons, without strength, because He does not aim to conquer, we could say, from without, but rather wants to be welcomed by man in liberty. God becomes a defenseless Child to conquer man's pride, violence and desire to possess. In Jesus, God took up this poor and defenseless condition to conquer with love and lead us to our true identity (Taken from an address given by Benedict XVI, during the general audience in the Paul VI Hall, December 23, 2009, Translation in English by Zenit.org).
Let us receive the little Lord Jesus each and every day. Be conquered by His littleness!
Under the Mercy,
Fr. Andy Davy, MIC
Father Andy Davy, MIC, serves at St. Mary Parish in Plano, Illinois.