The Lord spoke thus to the Prophet Ezechiel:
Behold I myself will seek my sheep, and will visit them. As the shepherd visiteth his flock in the day when he shall be in the midst of his sheep that were scattered, so will I visit my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples, and will gather them out of the countries, and will bring them to their own land: and I will feed them in the mountains of Israel, by the rivers, and in all the habitations of the land. I will feed them in the most fruitful pastures, and their pastures shall be in the high mountains of Israel: there shall they rest on the green grass, and be fed in fat pastures upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my sheep: and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost: and that which was driven away, I will bring again: and I will bind up that which was broken, and I will strengthen that which was weak, and that which was fat and strong I will preserve, and I will feed them in judgment (Ez 34:8-16).
I myself will come. In the Old Testament, God sent many prophets, holy men who spoke in His Name. When the fullness of time comes, God reveals His saving plan which includes the most stupendous of all mysteries. He no longer sends a holy man to speak in His Name: He comes Himself, in person. God becomes one of us. God decided that He would not save men from afar, that He would not protect Himself. He decided to take our nature upon Himself; to use a colloquial expression, He decided to “get his hands dirty”.
This is a great mystery, one that we cannot fully comprehend. The best way to get an idea of what it means is to think of what some of the great saints did in leaving comfortable lives to go and serve the poor. In our age, St Teresa of Calcutta has been an inspiration to many. She did not have to go. She could have stayed in her convent teaching the children of well-to-do families. But no, she went out into the slums, into their filth and contagion, fearlessly seeking to bring Jesus to those in need. St Damian of Molokai is another compelling model. He knew that by going to live with the lepers he was exposing himself to the deadly disease, and in the end he did contract leprosy and die. The Church holds up both these saints to our admiration. Where did they find inspiration if not in the mystery we celebrate today? They were frail humans like us, with the same needs and the same fears. Fortitude was given them to follow through with what was a humanly impossible task, thanks to their contemplation of the life of our Blessed Lord, which, as the Imitation of Christ tells us was, from the crib to the cross one long martyrdom.
As we turn our minds today to this awesome mystery of the Incarnation in Mary’s womb, let us be mindful that Emmanuel – God is with us. Ever since that day, no one who believes in Christ is ever alone, for He, the Good Shepherd, walks with us, in whatever valley of the shadow of death we may happen to find ourselves. Some people ask in the present crisis: Where is God? The reply is Emmanuel – God is with us. The real question is: where are we? And the answer is that we have strayed from the right path, we have run off to a far away country and like the prodigal son squandered all our inheritance. We have effectively made it clear that God is not really necessary. Our opulent nations have their technology, their science, their pleasures and pastimes; they thought they had control over nature, and no longer needed God, no longer needed Church. And now our churches are effectively closed. We are paying now the price of our abandonment of the source of life.
But in the midst of it all, Emmanuel – God is with us. He is never far from those who cry to Him even if His hand can way heavily in dealing out much needed medicinal chastisements. The circumstances may make it impossible to attend Holy Mass and receive the sacraments, – it has happened before in the history of the Church, – we know that Christ is with us, that He will never abandon those who trust in Him. These are times when we must have renewed recourse to personal times of prayer. The contemplation of the life of Christ through the eyes of Mary Immaculate, by means of this devotion called the Holy Rosary, is one of the most powerful means that the faithful have at their disposal today.
The priest cannot reach everyone. The fathers of families must at this time exercise their right to lead the family in prayer, even more than before. The family that prays together constitutes, as it were, a small domestic church, of which the father is the head and the God-given leader. If our families pray together, they will stay together, and together they will make it through the present crisis.
With confidence, let us turn to Mary Immaculate, pleading with her today to lead us more and more to her Son, to know how to turn our eyes to His life and example, confident that the power of the Incarnation is not diminished. It is as omnipotent today as it was yesterday. Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today and forever. (Hb 13:8)