Seeing God in the face of a child

| Deacon Mickey Friesen | December 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

“Lord of hosts, restore us; let your face shine on us, that we may be saved” (Ps 80:20).

The season of Advent calls us to be open to the coming of God’s presence. The people of the Bible believed that God would meet them face to face. Jesus is the face of God that comes to us at Christmas as the infant child of Bethlehem bereft of shelter and forced into exile.

The face of the child Jesus reflects the many “holy innocents” of his time and all times that are powerless to overcome the forces of darkness that rob them of safety, joy and hope for the future. All who did see God in the face of the child Jesus were changed by the encounter.

Today, there are still so many holy innocents who live in fear for their lives and struggle to see a hopeful future. They are the collateral damage of war, corruption and civil strife. They are God’s children whose faces still long to be saved.

Consider the faces of the children of Syria who have been pawns in a civil war since 2011. As the regional powers and ideologues of religious extremes wage attacks and counterattacks, a whole generation of children are being abandoned to a life of misery.

Since 2017, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been in a relationship of solidarity with the Archdiocese of Damascus in Syria. This land where Jesus and St. Paul walked is being reduced to rubble. Archbishop Samir Nassar fears especially for the children of Syria who have been born and brought up during the war and have known no other life. He says, “Before the beginning of the violence in 2011, Syrian children looked at life with such joy and hope. Now the same faces bear the expressions of fear, bitterness and worry.”

Archbishop Nassar says that the faces of the children show fear because they have faced the death of parents, friends and neighbors. Uncertainty continues to shape daily life and the ever-present possibility of forced exile. The face of fear remains constant in the face of unending violence and day-to-day instability.

The archbishop also sees bitterness in the faces of children who feel that the world is indifferent to them, and has forgotten and abandoned them. There is so much misery and poverty. They are bitter because their schools are ruined and their chances for education and dreams of a better life seem out of reach.

He says the faces of these children show that they are worried about an uncertain future. They witness the multiplication of social problems, the breaking up of families, the inability to draw on community support and pursue a stable work or economic life.

At Christmas time, we proclaim the coming of Christ among us, peace on earth and good will toward all. Let us pray and be open to the faces of the children of God, the holy innocents, who still long to be saved. Can we meet them face to face in some way that will change us to be able to bring forth that peace in Syria and beyond?

Deacon Friesen is director of the Center for Mission in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Category: The Local Church