Home Commentary Let the nonviolent Messiah in

Let the nonviolent Messiah in

Dear Sisters and Brothers whom God loves to the point of giving up Himself,

Love, Peace, and Joy of Christmas knock on the doors of our hearts, once more! As we go through years of uncertainty our hearts long for this season of Love, Peace, and joy.

Amid these atrocities, deep within our desperate hearts, we may hear a sighing whisper: “Will this Christmas make a difference in my life or in the life of the world?”

The annual occurrence of Christmas is God’s untiring invitation to Love, Peace, and Joy. After more than two thousand years humanity responds with the same indifference.

The Unwelcome Messiah

Centuries-long slavery of the Israelites makes them look forward to a Saviour who will impose his justice by destroying the enemies of Israel.

In their pain and suffering their hopes are focused on the powerful intervention of God. A Psalmist prayed “Destroy them in anger, destroy till they are no more.” (Psalm 59:14).

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The promises of the prophets and expectations of the apocalyptic writers leave no room for the alternative but a longing for a warrior Messiah.

Instead, the Cross is a scandal to many people (cfr. 1Cor 1:23), and so also is the manger. While the people expected a powerful king who would sit on the royal throne of David, here comes a poor baby who lies on the manger.

While the people hoped for a mighty warrior who would destroy their enemies, here comes a meager baby, who is totally defenseless. We can empathize with the Israelites who have great expectations of the Messiah. Even John the Baptist his precursor questioned, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Mt 11:3)

If the warlike Messiah is not coming to defeat the Romans, and if God is not going to intervene violently to avenge the people and bring justice to the poor, what can they do?

Are they to submit meekly to oppression, abuses, and injustices? Indeed, Jesus fought against injustice. From his experience of a nonviolent God, Jesus proposes a nonviolent practice of resistance to injustice.

This means living in unity with a God whose heart is not violent but compassionate. God’s sons and daughters are to be like God even when they are struggling against abuse and injustice.

The Nonviolent Struggle for Justice

The Messiah who comes into humanity as a powerless and vulnerable child gives us a message that his mission of liberation is not through violent means.

God’s coming cannot be violent and destructive. On the contrary, it will mean the elimination of every kind of violence among individuals and peoples.

Jesus constantly opposes different forms of violence, without ever resorting to the violence that destroys others. His mission is not to destroy but to heal, restore, reconcile, renew, bless, and forgive.

Jesus’ teaching is scandalous even today. He does not give norms or precepts. He simply suggests a way of acting that tests the limits of the possible. “… offer no resistance to one who is evil.

When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.” (Mt 5:39-41)

With these words, Jesus is not encouraging passivity. He is not leading us toward indifference, toward a cowardly surrender to injustice.

Rather he teaches us to respond with dignity, creating a new situation that dramatizes the injustice and forces the violent ones to reflect, even perhaps to change their attitude.

This does not mean playing victim but taking control of a violent situation with positive acts of friendship and grace.

For Jesus, this is the action most worthy of people who are entering the reign of God. “… love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father…” (Mt 5:44-45).

Jesus does not intend a magical transformation of the unjust and cruel society that he knows so well. He would soon experience the brutal power of the violent ones in his own flesh.

Jesus creates a tiny group of people who live their lives radically with nonviolent hearts confronting injustice responsibly and courageously.

They are authentic witnesses to God’s kingdom amid an unjust and violent world. They unmask the hypocritical humanity that is built on violence and indifference to the suffering of its victims.

The faithful followers of Jesus will be “mustard seeds”, or a small piece of “yeast” but their life will be a light that proclaims God’s compassionate reign.

Welcoming the Unwelcome Messiah

Christmas is not only a memorial of the Incarnation of God but also a celebration of God’s compassion. God-made man, Emmanuel (“God with us”) comes to share the experiences of humanity by being one like us in all things except sin.

Humanity, blinded by selfishness and hatred, has failed to welcome the nonviolent Messiah. Choked by selfishness and hatred, humanity is being destroyed by violence.

The longer we turn our deaf ears to the call of the nonviolent Messiah, the longer will our misery be. Therefore, let us welcome the unwelcome Messiah! It is the only way out of our misery.

When we welcome the Messiah, when we go to meet him on his mountain, when we heed his teaching, as the prophet Isiah sees in his vision of Judah and Jerusalem: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Isa 2:4)

Let us welcome the nonviolent Messiah so that our weapons of destruction will become the instruments that build humanity and that restore the lives of the poor and the powerless; that our young may no longer be trained again for war but instead will learn from the compassionate God to form a heart that is gentle.

Let us be reminded that “a child is born to us, a son is given to us” (Isa 9:5). Let us accept this gift of the Father. 

The gift that we receive will enter into our lives and prompt us to be different. Let this Child come into our lives and pay attention to him. He will speak of Love, Peace, and Joy.

When the Messiah is with us the world order will be transformed. As Yahweh proclaims through the prophet: “Justice shall be the band around his waist … Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall graze, together their young shall lie down; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the viper’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. They shall not harm or destroy…” (Is 11:5-9)

Dear Sisters and Brothers, if we want a change in our lives this Christmas, then we must allow the Messiah to come into our lives.

Today, more than ever, the world stands in need of this stupendous gift of the Incarnation to teach us to love and serve one another.

Before humanity is wiped out around the world by the violence of selfishness and hatred, let us open the doors of our lives and let the nonviolent Messiah in!

May the Spirit of Christmas remain in our hearts today and always!

Cardinal Charles Bo, SDB, Archbishop of Yangon

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