This morning, as I was reading Luke’s gospel, I was taken by the words related to finding a baby in a manger; the place where animals find food. Right before the words about finding the baby in the manger, the angel told the shepherds that this baby was a savior, a deliverer. From what did we need saving, and how is it tied to the image of the baby Jesus in the manger?
As I prayerfully pondered this question, I remembered that what separates humans from animals is the intellect. Could it be that we needed to be saved from our inability to use our intellect to act like humans made both in the image and likeness of God? In other words, maybe his purpose was to deliver us from the animalistic tendencies that exist within the sinful components of human nature.
The idea here is that animals live a life based on minimal intellectual activities. Animals are naturally wired to fight or flee in the face of danger. They act on instinct and compulsion. They do not have the ability to reason through decisions (at least at the same level as humans).
I think we can all relate to these tendencies when it comes to food and the sin of gluttony, whether through our own experiences or that of others. For example, many of us tend to instinctually gravitate towards food that is to our liking, as opposed to that which nourishes the body more thoroughly. At least on occasion, we compulsively eat more than we should. Therefore, one might say that one of the reasons Jesus came was to free us from these impulsive and instinctual inclinations. He came to free our intellect to choose the greater good, and the greater good is God.
So, how does the baby in the manger free us? By feeding us the very essence of God. Let me see if I can explain at least one component of this mystery. The Bible contains several statements against drinking the blood of animals because it is the life essence of the animal itself; it feeds our animalistic tendencies. So, why does Jesus go against the Biblical mandates, and tell us to drink his blood? So that we can take on the divine essence of God.
Through the Eucharist and our participation in the other sacraments, we are moved in the direction of union with God. The spiritual life is about the perfection of all that is not Godly, and he does this, in part, through the baby in the manger.
While, this mystery is tied to the presence of the Holy Spirit within all who are baptized, that is the topic of a future blog. For now, let us just spend a moment in prayer with the Holy Spirit, and ask Him to further enlighten us regarding the truth of the baby in a manger, a baby who came to free us from our sinful inclinations.