In the Christmas period we are all preparing to “be better”. While organizing our holidays we wonder where and with whom will we spend them? Alone? It is sad, but staying always with the relatives has become a real bore… And those gifts that over the years have become always the same ones; after the surprise, all is left is the disappointment coming from an object to be added to the many other objects of the same kind. When I was a little boy, my tree had sweets on it, candies and mandarins and I felt the richest child on earth: today there are iPhones, iPads and all the other things consumerism dictates us… Behold, today Christmas requires heavy sacrifices from most people.
The same way, also the tree and the Crib seem to have become a “sacrifice”, two strong symbols in western tradition which feels threatened today by the statements of some dull philosopher who wants to erase them with the excuse of not offending the traditions of other people… Thus was fed another subject repeated ad nauseaum of these weeks – Crib or no Crib – which does not help Christmas, the feast of Love. I read many phrases, many insults that hurt: “Go home”, “We want our Christmas, our own symbols, our Jesus”.
I have stopped to rethink my sole and extraordinary journey and pilgrimage to Palestine. Thousands of times during those seven days I touched that blessed land, thinking that Jesus had stepped on it moving from one country to another; I swam in the waters of the River Jordan and I “stole” a few golden leaves from the olive trees and jealously hidden them in a suitcase and brought home to my wife and my mother. The same olive trees where Jesus had prayed. In these days, my walks were accompanied by a man who had been next to me for many years, till death, a fraternal friend, Vincenzo Speciale. With him, I dwelt on the human person of Jesus, on His face, the color of His eyes. And about His sweet Mother, the young woman who had given birth to Him, a child as many others on earth.
How was she? What was the color of her skin? Vincenzo, with his smile, had simple but effective answers: “Jesus was exactly as these young men we meet, he had their face and His Mother was one of them”. Today, reading the many bad words written against our Muslim brothers and sisters I told myself: Jesus was one of them, he had their face, the face of the street sellers of African origin who approach me and who are even a nuisance with their persistent whimpering to give them an euro, which is superfluous for me and essential for them.
Jesus had walked in those holy places where today tanks and men in uniform are positioned. Yet Jesus embraced all of them, rich and poor, he did not distinguish between saints and whores; he gave and asked love, until his last breath, when his heart was torn apart by the suffering of crucifixion.
Perhaps thinking about the Crib and the child who is being born, we should think that the child we pray and love has the same skin of the poor children we see getting dirty and muddy on our coasts. Jesus will tell us one day: Where were you when I was born again and came knocking at your door? Why have you chased me away and offended me? Why have you not dressed me and why have you not given me one of your ten sweaters or jackets forgotten in the cellar? I have not renounced my Crib, but with the desire to find the face of Jesus of Nazareth in the face of the others.
Translated by Ecaterina Severin