He Came Down From Heaven

By Br Mark O’Connor FMS, 25 September 2020
Pope Francis performs the traditional washing of the feet at the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation in Rome, on April 17, 2014. Image: Osservatore Romano/EPA


God never forces himself on us. He never makes us listen. He leaves us free. He comes to us as one of us. He ‘came down from heaven’.

Jesus left his glory behind, the glory that he had with his Father. He ‘emptied himself’—we call this the kenosis or ‘emptying of himself’—to assume the form of a servant, taking on our human condition.

Jesus came down from heaven to become one of us. Like any immigrant, he brought with him the culture, language and lifestyle of his home in heaven. And what is at the core of the language and culture of the ‘immigrant’ Son of God, who comes from the very heart of the mystery of the Trinity?

Quite simply, that God is a lover who gives himself to us totally with boundless self-sacrifice. That to be divine is to become a servant of others.

As the great Anglican New Testament scholar and bishop, N. T. Wright, has noted: God became flesh not to stop being divine. It was a decision about what it means to be divine!

This decision has enormous implications for our discipleship. As Pope Francis has eloquently shown, in his pastoral ministry, washing the feet of those who are in need is an imperative and a test of our being authentic and true to our Credo. It is our way of imitating him who ‘came down from heaven’.

For Jesus chose to come as one of us. He chose to come as one of the working poor, living in an occupied territory, surrounded by scandal and accusation, living in relative obscurity in the middle of nowhere.

You could say the Credo is therefore calling us to a spirituality of emptiness and service. Jesus emptied himself to serve humanity and, as Paul says in Philippians, we, therefore, have to empty ourselves of all rivalry and conceit and all thinking of ourselves as better than others.

Such a spirituality of emptiness prompts us to think of what is inside us that we need to empty out. Is it being judgemental? Is it a tendency to sidestep the call of the Gospel to share generously with others? Could it be an arrogance which looks down and refuses to accept others in all their difference? Might it be a subtle racism?

Whatever it is for each of us personally, this spirituality of emptiness demands our inner conversion.

Being close to God is not about going up the ‘escalator’ of life. Rather, it is all about following a God who is always ‘descending’ and constantly bending down to serve. That is how we live our way into the mystery of God.

This article is part of a series of reflections entitled ‘I Believe…Help My Unbelief’: Meditations on the Creed by Br Mark O’Connor FMS.

Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta.


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