Incarnation is one of those funny church words we throw around a lot. But what does it mean, really? We hear it a lot around Christmastime in reference to “the Word was made flesh,” but then we move on to other theological mysteries.
In our “Saving Jesus” session last week, we were amused by one presenter’s use of the name “Jesus con carne,” meaning that God was made flesh. But the main point was that incarnation isn’t just something that happened 2000 years ago, but happens when we are open to the Divine spirit in us. Also, we are reminded that each and every other person is the presence of Christ. In other words, we are all connected to one another in both our humanity and in the Divine Presence that dwells within us. Granted we are aware and responsive to this Presence in varying degrees. Still, it causes me (in my better moments) to stop and think before I judge someone as outside my sphere of interest.
And to care about people I will never meet, but who are intimately connected to me in a web of incarnational life:
- Protesters in Baltimore, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, all those advocating for justice in all communities – as well as those resorting to violence and looting
- Police officers who abide by regulations, as well as those who use their power to inflict suffering
- Girls kidnapped in Nigeria, as well as their captors
- The people of Nepal, rescue workers and victims’ families, as well as climbers who have made Mt. Everest the “highest garbage dump” in the world
Incarnational life isn’t about caring only for the lovable or the just. It also isn’t about letting injustice go unpunished. It is about honoring our common humanity and working together for the good of all.
This past week I attended a seminar on homelessness in San Francisco. One of the key messages I heard from both agency officials and from people who used to be on the street was that homeless people are often treated as if they’re not human. Even if we can’t provide someone with what they want or need, we can look at them, speak to them, smile at them – look upon them as the face of Christ, which they are.
Is incarnational life easy? No. It would be simpler to keep it as a Christmas thing that we can out away with the creche. Out of sight, out of mind. But instead, we’re supposed to be Jesus con carne. We’re the ones who carry Divine compassion and justice to the world around us.