It’s one of the most iconic moments from Season 1 of The Mandalorian on Disney+. You probably remember the mounting tension, the questioning, and the punch-in-the-gut beauty at the end.
Bounty hunter Mando and IG-11 (an assassin robot) are on a mission to collect, and they finally locate their target. They enter the room where their target is, poised to make the hit and collect their reward, but our seasoned bounty hunter is shaken by the discovery of his target—its helplessness, fragility, vulnerability, and innocence. In short, he's shaken by the fact it's a baby. When the red light of Mando’s laser gun flashes, it is IG-11 that crumples to the floor, not the child. In one of the most powerful shots of the series to date, Mando stands over the little one he was supposed to kill, lowers his weapon, and holds out a finger...and we watch as a little baby hand reaches up to grasp it.
© 2019 Walt Disney Pictures. Mando by the side of the child, Season 1 of “The Mandalorian." All rights reserved.
Mando is disarmed. Not by the superior strength, ability, or cunning of his enemy, but rather by its helplessness. The vulnerability and complete dependence of the little baby draws from him an almost inevitable kind of love, working on what is perhaps the deepest and noblest instinct of the human heart – the instinct that drives even ignorant or unwilling parents into the most self-sacrificing acts of nurturance and protection. The vulnerability of the child disarmed Mando so that he too, in his turn, made himself vulnerable. And in this mutual vulnerability with one another was born a bond that would defy all the harshness the universe could throw at them. They were suddenly bound by a faithfulness and love that stemmed simply from their vulnerability before one another.
This is the very truth we encounter at the Manger.
When the Second Person of the Trinity took on flesh to become our King, he didn’t come as a great man to conquer political systems with pomp and force. He came in a form more little, poor, and vulnerable than any other. He came as a helpless newborn. And in his utter vulnerability, he drew from others that almost inevitable love. He disarmed the bitterness of shepherds, the intellectual scrutiny of magi, and the fear of Joseph. And disarmed, they gained the humble vulnerability to open their hearts to a faithful love of him.
Adoration of the Shepherds, by Gerard van Honthorst
You see, God loves us with that inevitable, faithful love. And coming as a defenseless child, dependent on us for absolutely everything, he broke down any barriers we had in our hearts to him—any pride, bitterness, shame, doubt, or fear—and taught us to become humble and vulnerable enough to learn to love him with that same inevitability, faithfulness, and love in our own human capacity.
Mando began to learn how to love at the side of the child’s little floating egg crib. So too must we learn to love, truly love, by the side of the Manger. Baby Jesus disarms us with his humility and vulnerability, leading us to be humble and vulnerable in turn. Humility and vulnerability are the key to Love, and God is Love.
This kind of love, the love of God himself, is the kind of love that has the power to change the world. Bl. James Alberione, the founder of the Daughters of St. Paul, has a quote precisely about this. And although it certainly was not intended to be a Mandalorian reference (the show didn’t exist in 1933) it is too perfect to omit:
“Blessed are those who begin from the Manger! The more one is humble, the more he imitates Jesus who was born in a grotto, a place not chosen by men. The soul that truly desires to do good things is humble…It is humility that makes you effective! Because it will be Christ who works in you. My children, this is the way. If we set out on other earthly roads, we may make a better impression at first, but the true good, the lasting good, that which in substance remains, is the work done by one who begins from the Manger.” – Fr. James Alberione, Meditation given to the Paulines in Alba, December 10th, 1933.
So take a cue from Mando this Christmas. Spend some time quietly beside the Manger. Peer down at Baby Jesus. Reach out your hand to him. Allow his humility and vulnerability to disarm you, so that you can be open to his Love. Afterall, this is the Way.
© 2020 Walt Disney Pictures. Mando and the child, Season 2 “The Mandalorian." All rights reserved.