Letter to the Child Jesus
22 December 2021
by Fr Serafino M. Lanzetta
Dear Baby Jesus,
It is quite unusual that You should receive a Christmas letter from a grown-up. Normally it is the little ones, children like You, in this season of poetry and dreams, who write to You and make various requests. Some ask You to help them be good or more obedient, and others, perhaps most, ask You for the gifts they would like to find under the tree or next to the Nativity scene. However, this year I have decided to write to You too.
Is it not solely to the extent that we resemble You, Infant of God, Child of Heaven, that we can say that we are truly grown up, mature, capable of life? It is You, O Jesus, who told us to become like children; that, if we do not become small, children spiritually, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And for this reason I turn to You, trying to become like You. You are the Child Whom we must become; You, the measure of man; You, his dignity, his truth. Becoming children means becoming You, conforming ourselves to You in order to rediscover our being made in Your image.
The image that best expresses a man — the one that puts us under scrutiny, sometimes leaving us in a prayerful silence, freed from human words — is that of a child. In the child is truth, poetry, enchantment, mystery, questioning. In the contemplation of a child is a question of what was there before him, what was not there before he was there, what there is now and what there will be when he is older: when he is a man. What will become of him? What is his path? So many whys; whys that press, perhaps when that child is sick; when he is suffering already from a devastating disease; or when that child who was supposed to be there is not there. Where is he? What about that life? Why is there such barbaric rage against the frail, fledgling life of a defenceless child — man in the first stage of his being, still being formed in his mother’s womb? In the profound silence of the maternal bond, the child asks only to be there, to live, as deep down I too wanted when I was formed in the secret of my mother’s womb. Why such cruelty?
The God with us
Children are always questioning us: at every stage of their lives. You dwell in these children, my dear Jesus, and so I am writing to You, to express, first of all, my joy because You are here; because You are with us. You, Emmanuel: “God with us”, are that Child Who came to stay with us. And, from the moment that You are with us, we can always be with You. And from You we can learn to be real men. From You we can learn how to live, how to be in this world. I would like, if You allow me — I know, I go too far — to make myself the loving voice of all my fellow priests and to say: thank You, Jesus, for being with us. Your birth inaugurates Your priestly being and action: Your Sacrifice. The bitter cold of that night in Bethlehem amid the world’s silence reminds You, O sweet Word, that You have come to suffer for us. Your suffering redeems us from evil and all suffering. That cold and that poverty, O Divine Child, are Your chosen companions in being with us as Saviour. By accepting penury, suffering, poverty, You wanted to redeem us from all that threatens us, especially from our selfishness: our sin.
At Your blossoming, Your adversary — sin — was already waiting for You. You defeated it by lowering Yourself and loading it onto Your shoulders. This is how You redeemed the world. This is how God loves: by offering Himself. This is how I should learn to be with You and live for You: by offering myself. At the Consecration, I do not say, “This is the body of Christ” but “This is my body”. If I would truly speak those sacred words with the desire to be Your Body, then I could transform the world, offering it to You; we priests could transform the whole of humanity, redeeming it by Your grace.
The miracle of Love
Dear Jesus, Your birth is the miracle of love. It tells us that there is no special right or claim at the origin of everything, when You, Jesus — now a defenceless Infant, but then equal in all ways to the Father — created the world from nothing. Instead, at the origin is love: the gift. It is a gift that is fulfilled in the virginity of Your Most Holy Mother, where there is no taste of presumption, of self-interest; where everything speaks to us only of love that abases itself, of a gift that surpasses our stinginess. At the origin is the gift. As at Your coming, so also at the beginning, when You created everything from nothing. May we learn from You to love without self-interest, to serve without wanting to be served; may we learn to live the Truth.
You know, Jesus, that today’s world, our culture, is rooted in principles that are opposed in all ways to Your Birth. For us, what matters is to demand, to want. Even when what we call a right is contrary to nature, to what You intended when You created all things, the men of today still demand it. We have made a right of everything but we forget duties. The measure is the will, not the truth. We no longer recognise ourselves as creatures. No one wants to look at You any longer, sweet Child. Your cries mortify us. We demand to be grown up without first wanting to be children. But growing up without passing through childhood is a lie — the original lie from the garden of Eden. Being grown up without You not only keeps us small but also makes us inhuman at times. We are even capable of terminating our children, at the first instant of the miracle of life. And so we no longer know how to obey.
True pastoral care
Even we priests, O Jesus, have sometimes forgotten that it is only by looking at You that we have the true measure of pastoral care and of living in this world as authentic witnesses of Your Gospel. Some of us claim rights that are contrary to Your will and to what you have made: abolishing priestly celibacy, granting ordination to women, accepting same-sex “marriages”, remaking the Church from her foundations. As You know, Jesus, attempts are underway in Your Church to shape a new Christianity without You; a humanity made more fraternal by rejecting You. Presumption, nothing but presumption: it will end like the Tower of Babel.
What is forgotten is that our priesthood is neither a right nor a political power. It is a gift, just like Your Birth. We must learn, dear Jesus, to be like You. Thank You once again, O Jesus. I would like to ask You for just one more thing this Christmas: let me learn from You, tiny Child of Bethlehem, to truly be a man, to be a priest faithful to Your Church. Teach me to be true, and so I will love You.
Merry Christmas, dear Jesus!
Fr Serafino M. Lanzetta