Monday, December 16, 2013

Hum A Happy Song to the Lord

Dear Friends,

Some spiritual writers have a honed ability to sum up the “big” aspects of faith in small packages. In two short paragraphs, the Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez helps us to understand the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke in terms of the adult dynamic of growth, change and suffering.

Matthew tells of Joseph magnanimously agreeing to divorce Mary
 in private rather than to press
Mary Visiting Elizabeth
charges, until an angel shows up to correct his perception of betrayal. Luke tells of a tremulous Mary hurrying off to the one person who could understand what she was going through: her relative Elizabeth, who miraculously got pregnant in old age after another angelic annunciation. Elizabeth believes Mary and shares her joy, and yet the scene poignantly highlights the contrast between the two women: the whole countryside is talking about Elizabeth’s healed womb even as Mary must hide the shame of her own.

Over the centuries, we’ve sanitized the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. Gutierrez continues,

We observe a mellow domesticated holiday purged of any hint of scandal. Above all, we purge from it any reminder of how the story that began at Bethlehem turned out at Calvary.

In the birth stories of Luke and Matthew, only one person seems to grasp the mysterious nature of what God has set in motion: the old man Simeon, who recognized the baby as the Messiah, instinctively understood that conflict would surely follow. "This is the child destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against…” he said, and then made the prediction that a sword would pierce Mary’s own soul. Somehow, Simeon sensed that though on the surface little had changed – the autocrat Herod still ruled, Roman troops were still stringing up patriots, Jerusalem had still overflowed with beggars – underneath, everything had changed. A new force had arrived to undermine the world’s powers.

If you haven’t done so already, read the Infancy Narratives this year as speaking directly to adults trying to take the Holy One seriously in our lives which are entangled in cultural perceptions and values Which diminish the their meaning.

Hum a carol as you continue Advent,
~Joan Sobala, SSJ