Christmas Message -2002
By Rev. Fr. John K. K.
“How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Luke 1:34.
Luke’s annunciation dialogue is impressive and natural. When
Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced the birth of
Savior, Mary’s reaction was quite simple, straightforward and
honest which revealed her chastity, humility and innocence. Her
immaculate (do not confuse with Immaculate conception theory)
mind could not comprehend or assimilate an idea of conception
without involvement of man for there was no precedence in
history. Though an element of wonderment deserves recognition
Mary’s question is a sober requisition for further clarification.
Mary’s assertion that she knew no man attests her virginity.
Mary was betrothed to Joseph but they had not come together.
Jewish custom required that betrothed man and woman were called
husband and wife but forbidden from intimate contacts before
marriage. Marriage was usually solemnized after one year from
the day of betrothal. Thus the word ‘husband or wife’ does not
indicate consummation of marriage. Similarly ‘father’ (Luke
2:48) does not mean biological father. Luke states here how
Jesus and Joseph were known in the society, verse 3:23. None
other than Mary, Elizabeth and Joseph knew about the
supernatural conception for, it was hidden for the safety of
Child Jesus. Had the true identity of Child Jesus been revealed,
the plan of redemption would have been in jeopardy as is evident
from the narration of infanticide by Herod, Mat 2:7-18.
incidents were fulfillment of past prophecies. Mor Ignatius
Noorono says, “The virginity of Mary, her giving birth and death
of the Lord were hidden from the prince of this world, three
mysteries loudly proclaimed but wrought in silence of God,” Eph
19:1. So let no one twist the Word of God to utter a blasphemy
that Mary had conjugal relations with Joseph, she bore again,
Jesus had blood brother, etc for one’s own perdition.
no doubt startled at the unexpected salutation and announcement
and yet she was conscious to seek clarification. The angel
encouraged her repeating, “fear not,” and clarified the matter.
Whether or not she fathomed the whole mystery, I believe she did
at that point, voluntarily and willfully submitted to the
divine plan and that special quality exalts Mary from all the rest.
Abraham and Sarah had similar dialogue with angel who said to
Abraham that he would be father of nations. He was 100 years old
and Sarah was 90. Their first reaction was ‘how can it be?’
Abraham and Sarah laughed at the idea as totally unrealistic for
they had passed childbearing age. God did not punish for their
disbelief. God accommodates human weaknesses.
priest had the same thought for the same reason. Angel
considered his response as disbelief and punished him with
dumbness till the prophecy came to pass. Zechariah can be
vindicated from human perspective because there was no prophecy
for 400 years from Malachi, a turbulent period in Israel’s
history because of conquest of Phillip of Macedonia, Alexander,
Hellenistic culture, persecution by Antiochus Epiphanus,
destruction of Jerusalem temple, scattering of Jews all over the
Hellenistic world, rise and fall of Maccabees, Roman invasion,
dynasty of Herod who was Edomite, etc. Since God was silent
during this tumultuous period he too did not anticipate any
unusual occurrence. But God does not see as humans, 1 Sam 16:16.
Zechariah, being matured priest, should not have disbelieved
when the angel said. This serves a stern warning for all,
especially priests and bishops who are not conscious and not
vigilant of their calling.
Zechariah and Mary are not the only who crossed the threshold of
trying moments. Joseph was righteous before God and faithful to
his master. Yet he was unjustly imprisoned. Sons of Jacob
returned from Egypt without Simeon and wanted to take Benjamin
before Pharaoh. Jacob was thoroughly banished saying, “All
things are against me,” Gen 42:36.
Men of Ai smote Israelites
and they failed. Joshua fell down to earth and asked God, ‘How
can it be,’ Josh 7:6. Job was perfect, upright, shunned evil and
feared God and yet he lost all wealth and all his children. Sore
boil affected him from toe to head. He sat down in ash and
scratched his skin. He could not understand why he had to face
such perils. He cursed his own birth.
David, man after God’s own
heart, 1 Sam 13:14, faced countless problems. He fled from Saul
for fear of death. Incest and revolt broke out from within his
house. He fled in utter despair from his palace in exile fearing
Absalom, his son.
Prophet Jeremiah lamented if had an inn to get
away from the stubborn and sinful people. Elijah fled for fear
of his life and said, “It is enough now Oh Lord, take away my
life,” 1 K 19:4. Daniel, man of great esteem, faced lion’s den
for his devoutness in prayer.
Perplexing conflicts are common in life. Abrupt information
whether good or bad would turn people blue as in excitement of
winning lottery, union of long lost friend, etc. There are more
than enough reasons for us to bewilder, natural calamities,
terminal illness, financial lose, death, etc. Year 2000 ended in
grip of fear due to foolish prognosis about end of the world
coupled with Y2K problem. 2001 ended in panic followed by, 9/11
terrorism, collapse of WTC, etc. 2002 was not too good either.
Recent sniper attacks in DC outwitted even Columbine shooting.
Normal life came to a standstill. Danger of war hangs on a
slender thread. On the one-hand doctors, bio-scientists, social
reformers, leaders, charitable agencies, etc tirelessly work to
ameliorate human suffering. On the other hand injustice,
exploitation, lawlessness, violence, destruction, hate-crime,
immorality, etc imperils the very existence of life. War is
deadliest form of terrorism. One wonders why peace-loving
governments would pursue it! Who knows what is in store for
Today as never before we have too many reasons to feel sad.
There is a paradigm shift in the family concept. Nucleus family
replaced joint family. Individual unit replaced family unit. In
most cases today’s family is nothing more than a dwelling place.
Each member in it comes, goes, eats and sleeps at different
times to suit job and educational conveniences. TV replaced
bible and prayer. Persons live like islands under the same roof
due to absence of love and communication. No wonder, despite all
scientific and technological advancements human society has
reversed to 3500 years when, “Every man did that which was right
in his own eyes,” Judges 21:25 that is lawlessness and
All these never ending calamities tempt an honest
person to ask why man is unable to shun evil ways and turn to
God? General Omar Bradley, Chief of Staff said, “With the
monstrous weapons man already has, humanity is in danger of
being trapped in this world by its moral adolescents. Our
knowledge of science has clearly outstripped our capacity to
control it. We have many men of science, but too few men of God.
We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon
on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual
darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and
death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power
without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and
ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about
peace, more killing than we know about living. This is our
twentieth century’s claim to distinction and to progress,” from
his speech at Boston on Nov 10, 1948. Then nuclear warfare was
an infant. Present nuclear warfare is 1.3 Million times more
Biological weapon is another monster. Man spends $10
Million each minute world over for warfare. Advancement of
technology and improved living standards could not ameliorate
human suffering or to attain harmony. “We have been the
recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been
preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have
grown in number, wealth and power as no other nation has ever
grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious
hand, which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched
and strengthened us and we have vainly imagined, in the
deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these things were produced
by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with
unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the
necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray
to God that made us.” Thus said Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago
when the social fabric was comparatively far better than today.
I wonder, with the moral upheavals that took place by the
passage of time what he would have said of today!
Had Isaac Newton not questioned his intellect why the apple fell
to ground instead of flying upwards we would not have got the
law of motion and gravitation. Had James Watt not asked himself
why the lid of the boiling pot pushed itself up, we would not
have got steam engine! Behind every invention/discovery and its
applications, without which the present society could hardly
function, there is a mind that questioned, how could it be?
Inquisitiveness is good.
Angel answered Mary’s question with reverence for God favored
her. She is full of grace and model for all Christians. Mary led a sinless life. Ironically, we accept Christ yet live in sin. Let
Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year!