time & friends

A meditation of Carlo Cardinal Martini entitled “Through Moses to Jesus” may help explain this Christmas tug at our hearts. Moses, he says, was a man of big numbers and he cites the census in the Book of Numbers, “The total for the tribe of Reuben was forty-six thousand five hundred . . . for the tribe of Simeon was fifty-nine thousand three hundred…” and so on. In general, Moses had contact only with the multitudes. He concludes, “Hence I believe we can state that Moses represents in a very strict sense the principle of efficiency on the social, structural and hierarchical levels, applied to the people of God… Since he has so many extraordinary things to do, Moses has no time for individual and personal situations.” During much of the year, we may often be like Moses.

Jesus, on the other hand, Cardinal Martini says, is “the man of small numbers. He takes one person or another at a time; He stops to chat; He waits until the other understands. Jesus gives Mary of Magdala time, He gives the disciples walking to Emmaus time.”

Jesus is a person who has both time and friends. He gives time for the man born blind, the woman at the well of Samaria, the paralytic at the poolside of Bethsaida, the lepers, the widow of Naim — He gives them undivided attention and time.

Cardinal Martini concludes: “The fact is that here we see the logic of the lost sheep. The ninety-nine are waiting, but He goes looking for the one straggler. It is the logic of the lost coin . . . the mysterious logic of God’s particularization. God seems to get lost in the individual, willingly concealing Himself in the most minute and most simple things, in the things for which we have neither the time nor the leisure that would enable us to attend to them.”

And so we understand why Jesus, who comes to us at Christmas, invites us to see with new eyes and why He tugs at our hearts. As we attend to a street kid or to a beggar or prepare Christmas packages for a few families or visit a few children in an orphanage, we might be tempted to ask: “But what is this among so many?” But this is Christmas and Christ came to a few shepherds and three wise men. In later years, He did not ask, what about all the other paralytics or all the other lepers or all the other blind men? He did not count worth in numbers. In each individual He saw His mission to a world in need.

So let us let this God of small numbers, this God, who has time for the lost sheep, open our eyes and pull at our hearts this Christmas.

-Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J., from his Christmas message

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