"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

[Fourth Week 2/2] God IS Forgiving Love


Point Of Departure: A Rare Nativity by Sam Beeson (On the Twelve Days Of Christmas)


n the first night of Christmas I gave my enemy a briar from a tangle wood tree.
On the second night of Christmas I gave my enemy two broken eggs.
On the third night of Christmas I gave my enemy three crooked forks.
On the fourth night of Christmas I gave my enemy four old potatoes.

On the fifth night of Christmas I gave my enemy five shards of glass.
On the sixth night of Christmas I gave my enemy six crumpled tissues.
On the seventh night of Christmas I gave my enemy seven scraps of paper.
On the eighth night of Christmas I gave my enemy eight clumps of clay.

On the ninth night of Christmas I gave my enemy nine rusty nails.
On the tenth night of Christmas I gave my enemy a bird nest in ten pieces.
On the eleventh night of Christmas I gave my enemy eleven dead leaves.
On the twelfth night of Christmas I gave my enemy twelve gnarly twigs.

The night followed number twelve,
I slept ’til half past three.
And wallowed in my sallow state
Against my enemy.

I dreamed my enemy convulsed.
I dreamed he gagged and swore.
My dreams were dashed as I awoke
To knocking at the door.

I grumbled out of bed and then
I shuffled toward the sound.
I opened up the door to find
A gift upon the ground.

The tag upon the lid contained
A note addressed to me.
I recognized the penmanship.
It was my enemy: Forgive me.

I gently pulled the knotted twine,
And setting it aside,
I lifted up the lid
To the compendium inside.

Five shards of glass composed a star—
A singular display.
And sheep were made of tissue.
Bits of bird nest made the hay.

Potato shepherds came to life
With carvings and with clays.
As paper angels shouted out
Their wonders and their praise.

Three kingly forks each bowed a head
Near rusted, spiky pegs.
The briar baby lay between
The pale, parental eggs.

All foolish things, all rotten things
I’d sent my enemy,
Were carefully converted in
This rare nativity.

He turned the other cheek and made
My ugliness a gem.
And by so doing, pointed me…
To lovely Bethlehem.

God Is LoveForgiving Love

In both Old and New Testament agape or divine love is imaged in so many ways, e.g., the love of a father for his child, of a mother for the child of her womb, sacrificial love of a husband for his wife, etc. Apart from agape, the Bible also speaks of eros or sexual love and intimacy between two lovers as shown in the Song of Songs. These love songs were accepted to be part of the biblical canon, both Jewish and Christian, and even enjoy such regard as the greatest and most beautiful of its class (as in Holy of Holies). Both agape and eros, like two sides of the same coin, are key to a healthy and balanced view of our God who is love.

Benedict XVI writes, "We have seen that God's eros for man is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives. Hosea above all shows us that this agape dimension of God's love for man goes far beyond the aspect of gratuity. Israel has committed “adultery” and has broken the covenant; God should judge and repudiate her. It is precisely at this point that God is revealed to be God and not man: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! ... My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos 11:8-9). God's passionate love for his people—for humanity—is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God's love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love" (Deus Caritas Est 10).

I stumbled upon this true story of forgiveness of then 65-year-old Rosa as witnessed personally by Fr. Alex Ulpindo, CICM in his mission in the Dominican Republic. Rosa is known to many as a “fighter” for her social involvements in lobbying for access to potable water, electricity and roads for their poor barrio. There is something about Rosa that is not known to many. After she struggled for thirty long years to build her own home, her only daughter sold it for 25,000 Dominican pesos, in the guise to “legalize” it. After Rosa was abandoned, her friends from the Christian community came to her aid especially when her health condition was deteriorating. In her old age she became crippled and lost her eyesight. Despite her pitiable condition, Rosa says, “If one day my daughter will come back I will receive her gladly because I have already forgiven her. For even without having anything, I am filled with God.” What Benedict XVI says about love perfectly applies to Rosa. I quote, "God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, he makes us see and experience his love, and since 'he has loved us first', love can also blossom as a response within us" (Deus Caritas Est 17).

St. Ambrose (Archbishop of Milan, 374-397) has this commentary on the six days of creation. I quote, “I thank the Lord our God who created such a marvelous work in which to find his rest. He created the heavens, and I do not read that he rested; he created the earth, and I do not read that he rested; he created the sun, the moon, the stars, and I do not read that even then he rested; but I read that he created man and that at this point he rested, having a being whose sins he could forgive” (Hexameron, IX 76). Our redemption is already part of God's marvelous work of creation. This is also consistent with Jesus' image of his Father as the one who goes out in search of the stray sheep and he never tires waiting for the arrival of the prodigal son. While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He runs to meet and embrace him. This is how God always finds his heart at rest—after having forgiven.

Grace To Beg For: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom 8:28). All things, he says—not only, therefore, those which are desired because pleasant, but also those which are shunned because painful; since we receive the former without being carried away by them, and bear the latter without being crushed by them, and in all give thanks” (St. Augustine, Letter 131).

Points To Consider:

Scenes in the streets of London during
the Great Plague of 1665.
Red crosses were painted on their
doors along with a plea for forgiveness:
“Lord have mercy upon us.”

1. Benedict XVI attests that humanity is redeemed by love, i.e., by the unconditional merciful love of God in Jesus Christ who encompasses the whole of reality (Spe Salvi, 25-27; Deus Caritas Est, 12, 17). Am I convinced that I am redeemed by God's forgiving love? This is how God always finds his rest—after having forgiven.

2. "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Lk 15:7). Is my joy like that too?

3. Proceed to the †Lectio Divina link at the bottom for the option to pray over the gospel reading for the day.

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ


  1. The Rare Nativity invites me to be a channel of God's forgiving love, which always sustains me in my religious life... “Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love...” -St. john of the Cross.... Thank you Fr. Jom for your inspiring reflections...Have a blessed and meaningful Christmas! Keeping you always in my prayers...

    1. Thank you so much for your gift of offered prayers! Writing these Advent reflections made me stay close to the Lord who alone is worthy of all our love. Mutual prayers and God bless us this Christmas!


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