Thursday, December 19, 2019

God is one with Us, Each and Every One

Dear Friends,

In my file I have a collection of talks and short pieces that fall in the category of “Things I Wish I Had Written.” Among them is an editorial written in 2003 for Maryknoll Magazine by its publisher and editor, Fr. Joseph Veneroso. Here’s part of his Christmas reflection:

                “ After we decorate the tree, write and mail our cards, buy and wrap all our presents and sing all the carols, we should visit a friend or relative who has a newborn baby. We should cradle the infant in our arms. Maybe hold the newborn’s bottle. Sing a lullaby. Better still, change the baby’s diapers.  

                Here is the great mystery of both life and salvation. Any newborn is a breathtaking marvel. But to think that the Creator of the universe would come to us in so small, wrinkled and vulnerable a form defies belief. That {more than} 2000 years ago, a child such as this was none other than God in the flesh boggles the mind.

                Just think: God became truly human, with all our weaknesses and mortality, tempted like us in every way, yet without sin (Heb.4.15). What does this say about God?  More amazing, what does it say about us? Humanity was capable of bearing divinity without melting or exploding, God was not embarrassed or humanity overwhelmed….

                As you hold a baby in your arms, watch a toddler or sigh in exasperation at the rebelliousness of your teenager, consider: Baby Jesus burped and spit up and plopped on his bottom while learning to walk. Toddler Jesus put all sorts of unsavory things into his mouth. And we know from Scripture that teenage Jesus caused great concern to Mary and Joseph. Adult Jesus knew hunger, loneliness, fear and love. He enjoyed companionship and wept at the death of his friend. The Gospels never mention Jesus worshiping in the Temple. His very being was an act of worship; his whole life was lived in constant communion with the Father. God experienced what it means to live and die as a human.

                We, in turn, can encounter God at every moment in the temple of our humanness, if we but cleanse it of sin. We share with God a common vocation: becoming fully human.

                Most of the time, we profess our belief in God.

                Christmas shocks us with the realization that God also believes in us.

To all you who read this,
 and to all you love,
I wish a Christmas made rich this year
 by the realization that God is one with us,
each and every one.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Crystallize what is within You

Dear Friends,

Stop to take a good long look at the image above.  The women are, of course, Mary and Elizabeth, at opposite ends of the family age spectrum, each pregnant and obviously glad to be together as their handclasp signifies. Each had a look of wonderment in her eyes. Symbols of holiness adorn their rounded bellies. We can read their story in Luke 1.39-56.

I found this image while visiting the University of Notre Dame a few years ago. I don’t know the artist’s name, but the picture was used to advertise an Advent bible series. I have brought it out of storage  each year since, because, if I can borrow a phrase from the poet William Wordsworth, this is “the pregnant season”. Wordsworth coined the term in his “Prelude” and  did not use it in a religious context, but it does apply to the here and now because, as we celebrate Christ, who became and becomes  one with us in our humanity, this is indeed a pregnant season, not  only for Mary and Elizabeth, but for us, male and female, in 2019 as well.

At this time of year, we come out of our summer productivity and our fall harvest to become large with expectation. Each of us is pregnant in many ways, this year in ways that are different from other years.

We may  be:
  • pregnant with hope, not giving in to the threat of depression or despair
  • pregnant with newly forming or unresolved questions about life
  • pregnant with the realization that what we bear within us, in our minds and hearts,  waiting to emerge, is not our to keep but to  share, to pass on
  • pregnant with gifts for others – gifts of insight, the works of our hands, words of compassion and encouragement, new ways of looking at reality
  • pregnant with the unexpected and unanticipated but nonetheless worthy to be held tenderly and given to others.

One day, we will give birth, just as Mary and Elizabeth gave birth to Jesus and John the Baptist. crystallizing what is within us for the benefit of others.

Jesus and John the Baptist enriched the world. They said no to whatever diminishes the world’s           goodness.

As the days leap on toward Christmas, scan the horizon of our world, for today, Christ comes to us, borne in Mary who brought the savior to John and his mother.  I hope we can honor one another as Mary and Elizabeth honored each other. This is one way Christmas will be for us remarkably new, and not a backward glance into history.

-Sister Joan Sobala