Pilgrimage to the Heart of the Infant Christ

by Susanna Mak

I love road trips. Think of all the interesting sights you may see, people you may encounter by chance, interesting and delicious snacks you may sample along the way! I think the journey itself is as important as, if not more than, the destination. Almost twenty years ago, my husband and I embarked on a month-long road trip from Toronto to the west coast of British Columbia. We drove and drove; noted every single sight, sound, and smell we experienced along the way. I particularly was moved by the changes in the landscape from one province to another; some subtle but mostly dramatic! How the gentle rolling hills of Ontario suddenly give way to the flat farmlands as far as the eyes can see in the Prairies. How the skies open up to boundless stretches of blue and white without warning. I felt like I was flying! Halfway through Alberta, we were greeted by time itself, the Rockies, a natural wonder that was raised from the depth of the ocean some 285 million years ago, within which buried the secrets of human and natural history. The hills and valleys, farmlands and towns, glaciers and rivers, flora and fauna, all signal to me the love, generosity and grandeur of the Creator. To this date, I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity of not only exploring the landscape of my beautiful country, but also the heartscape (translation team: landscape of the heart) of our Loving God.

On this day of celebration, Luke tells the Christmas story from a unique perspective. In this scene, the only characters with speaking parts are the shepherds, who “made known the message that had been told them about this child” (Lk 2:17). There are other bystanders simply “amazed” by the shepherd’s story. This appears to be quite a scene: a small family huddling in a manger with a tiny infant; three foreigners suddenly show up to pay homage to this ordinary family. We can imagine the commotion caused by the shepherds’ astounding story! While everyone else seems to be talking, the main characters remain muted. Luke’s narrative does not describe any verbal response from Mary or Joseph. “Mary kept all these things, reflecting …” (Lk 2: 18). The infant Jesus never utters a sound. Perhaps He, too, wants to hear what the visitors have to say about Him and His Father or simply wants to soak up His mother’s reactions. By focusing on the first witnesses to the birth of Christ, the centrality and brightness of the Son of God shines even more brilliantly. Indeed, the shepherds have been invited to bear witness to love itself. Christ, the Son of God, “the Word became flesh and lived among us”, who understands what it means to be human, walks with us and accompanies us especially in our darkest hours (Jn 1:14).

Luke’s narrative unfolds how these ordinary working class folks - shepherds - simply accept the angels’ words and immediately go “in haste” in search for this seemingly elusive infant: “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us” (Lk 2:15, 16). They hear, go in haste, find, see, tell, return, glorify and praise God. They return home with a newfound joy and hope in their hearts after bearing witness to the birth of the long-awaited Saviour. Such is the power of faith! Just as the Shepherds set out to Bethlehem solely by intuition and faith, so must we set out in good faith on our own pilgrimage to the heart of God where unimaginable love, compassion, peace, and joy await. However, unlike the shepherds, we often hesitate. Fruitless worries give us pause; we give up out of fear. Today, once again, the infant Christ beckons us to His heart. He wants nothing more than to show us what love is and that His mercy trumps all our weaknesses and fear. In our moments of doubts, may we be like the Infant Christ, silently and patiently gazing into Mary’s eyes. Today, you and I, let us go on the most important road trip of our lives!

The journey of these ordinary working class folks is the journey that each one of us must take. All great journeys begin with a tiny step. Let us take courage and set out; let us rouse ourselves and slumber no more for a light has been lit; a light that beckons but never pushes, gentle but never blinding, kind but never indulging, compassionate and patient. Such is a pilgrimage of our lifetime, trekking lightly, always seeking, always moving forward; our steps need only lighted by a single but bright light - Christ.