"Glory to God in the highest..."
[Greetings of the Casante to the Calabrian Family]
"Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, to those whom God loves" (Lk. 2: 14).
Dear brothers and sisters of the Calabrian Family,
May the love, peace and joy of the Child Jesus, on this Christmas, be kept in our hearts now and for ever.
One year has passed very quickly, and besides our daily commitments, our running, and all the events that happen in our life and in the world, there is an extraordinary and marvelous fact that helps us go out from our human logic: God was made flesh and dwelt among us.
Let me share with you a reflection, in this providential occasion, so that this extraordinary and marvelous event should not pass as a routine, superficially, as many other events of our life; instead we should let it come in and transform our hearts.
Let’s stop for a while, and entrust [to him] our thoughts, runnings, and worries that fill our lives and hearts of anxiety, and let us be wrapped up by his peace! [This is] a inner peace that only our Lord, the “Prince of peace” can give us. [It is] a peace that stems from our heart which feels deeply loved by God, and discovers it in a smile, in a look, in the capacity to “lose our time” for somebody who is in need, in a stretched hand to help others, in the capacity to welcome people, in the look at the sick or at the elderly person, in the simplicity of a child, in the daily events, [we discover the love of God] also in a caress given and received, in a wiped tear or in “slapping” somebody on the back in order to give him courage. This is the peace of the small things that unfortunately we have lost.
Instead we risk to get ourselves taken more and more by anguish, by theories or empty words, by a stiff face, mistrust, need of supremacy, hostility, indifference, anger and vengeance, influenced by external and superficial things, which harden more and more our hearts and relations.
Let us take a moment, dear brothers and sisters, to speak of and live the solemnity of Christmas, but [it should be] Jesus’ Christmas, not the commercial one, or that of a decorated tree at the center of the house, with shining lights; or [the Christmas] of a pretty crib which we have prepared and we brush up every year; or [the Christmas] of a very small and loving Child Jesus whom we venerate with nostalgia; [the Christmas] of a lunch or dinner to gather the community, the family, and the friends, in order to stay altogether, to greet one another; [it should not be the Christmas] of a small thought expressed according to our own way in a small prayer, perhaps rather in a harry; [the Christmas] of our presence at Mass just to “fulfil a precept” and then to go home as soon because we have many things to do; [the Christmas] of an exchange of gifts, which can also be rather superficial and perhaps we don’t need so much; [the Christmas] of a phone call of some persons whom for the entire year we did not remember, or a call of our dearest friends to tell them: Merry Christmas! Or to send picture postcards, WhatsApp and Christmas messages to all our relations and friends; [a Christmas] of exchange of some reminiscences about somebody who was with us last year and now he/she is no more; [it should not be the Christmas] of the joy to possess something more, something that we did not have last year; [nor it should be the Christmas] of a great sorrow that with the approaching of Christmas makes us suffer still more...
Yes, all these are very good things, and some can also be significant and pleasant reminiscences to remember on this Christmas; however, let me tell you with sincerity that Christmas is not this; Jesus’ Christmas is anything but this! It is the fact that more than others touch us in depth. Both spiritually and humanly, and opens us to welcome God who makes himself man, who makes himself one of us because he loves us and gives his peace. “… you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Suddenly the angel was surrounded by many more heavenly spirits, praising God and saying: «Glory to God in the highest, and Peace, on earth, to those whom God loves»” (Lk. 2: 13-14).
This announcement, in the simplicity and depth of the Word of God, is the core of our Christian faith, the announcement of God-with-us, God among us. [He is] a God-man, mortal flesh, wrapped in swaddling clothes; he did not only restrict himself to take care of us, instead he wanted to be one of us, in a true and radical sharing of what we are.
We are also astonished because God did not come among us in power, splendor and grandeur, to dominate the world. God revealed himself in humility, and in the simplicity of a story in which subjects are poor men and women, not emerging and without important roles. God came among us “emptying” himself of his divine prerogatives, and we can say that he lowered himself until taking on the last place among us, such a place of a servant that will never be taken away from him, as the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians reminds us “… but emptied himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness …” (Filip. 2: 7).
Moreover, it is very significant that the great news of his birth was revealed to the shepherds, poor and simple persons; and they understood that were dealing with an important birth and then suddenly run to get closer to the most significant event of the human history. They obey and go to see; and they find a scene that appears very human: a woman who gave birth; a Baby just born, and a father who is the guardian of that birth.
Therefore, today we need to discover the feast of Christmas in the simplicity of life, in the simplest human relationships, in the events to which we normally don’t pay attention, because we don’t consider them very important, they are of no interest, or they are economically unfruitful.
Today the Word announces that this great mystery can happen in my life, in your life, to the extent that we are able to let ourselves be surprised by simple things, like children. We should not close our look and heart; nor should we harden ourselves in our truth. We are invited on this Christmas to find the weak Child Jesus in our weakness; [we are invited] to discover this Baby inside the persons that surround us, to see this Baby in the places where we work, in the persons we meet, especially the most needy and poor; [we are invited] to perceive this Baby finding again our humanity and getting out from the possible fixed schemes which we have in mind.
I just think that the Lord is asking the Christians, especially the members of the Calabrian Family, who have the task to bear the evangelical message of St. John Calabria, to “take care of the weakness” as the concrete sign of the birth of Jesus on this Christmas. Each one of us has the possibility to ascertain the various weaknesses of the persons and to take care of them with an extraordinary love.
Today I come to tell you, and I say to myself too, that Christmas happens in your heart, in your life and in the most ordinary situations of your existence, among the people who are part of your daily life, in the reality in which one lives; [Christmas] happens and deeply touches the heart and the fragility of humankind. Christmas cannot keep us comfortable in our indifference and superficiality; instead it makes us do a significant improvement in faith, and in humanity, of which we need so much in this moment, in our life, in our families, and in the places where we are working and doing every day our businesses, in the society and in the whole world.
“You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger”: behold, we will find the Child Jesus weak and wrapped in the simplicity of the daily life, in our incapacities, loneliness and humiliations.
May the peace of Jesus reach your heart and your life, so that you can communicate the love and serenity of His presence among us. Let not be an obstacle, the reality that we live every day, in welcoming with simplicity this great mystery of love. These are the dearest greeting that we can offer one another on this Christmas.
To conclude this reflection, I report the words of St. John Calabria and I believe that they are for us today words of a particular meaning; they should be welcomed as they were told to each one of us: “Behold, my dear sons, by the grace of God we are arrived to the eve of the great Christian feast of the Holy Christmas. Oh, let us feel, let us desire and look forward to this beautiful solemnity … Let everyone prepare well himself, with true faith, to this great anniversary. Prepare yourselves to receive great fruits, and they will be in proportion of your faith… The feasts must be like stations in this journey of our life: in them we should clean ourselves from the dust that fell upon us on the way, we have to nourish well ourselves in order to continue the journey with new energy. Go with a true spirit and true faith to the Manger of the crib. Let’s treasure the sublime examples that the Child Jesus gives us: deep humility, poverty, and complete abandonment to the will of the Father. Let’s well prepare ourselves, and then we will taste the same peace and joy that the Angels sang over the Manger with the words that you know very well: "Peace, on earth, to those whom God loves” (Fr. Calabria, 23-12-1928).
I wish all of you a HOLY and MERRY CHRISTMAS. May the birth of Jesus bring in our hearts the deep joy of his love, so that we may become more and more sensitive to the realities of weakness that we meet in our daily life, and we can take care of them embodying the love of God that is in us.
A long and fraternal embrace with all my love! I ask you to remember me in your prayer. I keep all of you in my prayer before Jesus.
May God bless all of you.
Fr. Miguel Tofful
Verona, December 21, 2016