‘Tis the Season to Be Overjoyed!
Fountain of Love and Life (www.FLL.cc)
Micah’s proclamation of the Good News is almost hysterical. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the prophet sounds so overjoyed he is, I’d venture to say, a little beyond himself:
From you [Bethlehem] shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel…(MI 5:1)
Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne…(MI 5:2)
His greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace…
Beyond ourselves is what we Christians should be – what the whole world should be – as the Church’s celebration of Advent enters its final week. For the mystery of the Father’s divine love is about to be revealed in its fullness and made visible to the whole world in His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!
O shepherd of Israel, hearken, from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth…(Ps 80:2) – the psalmist chimed in joyously.
This morning, I had just bought a cup of Starbucks coffee when a long line of youthful Christmas carolers streamed into the shop unexpectedly, wearing red and green Christmas outfits and singing Twelve Days of Christmas. There must have been more than 20 of them, crowding up the stairway to the upper floor of the shop, giggling and making funny faces as they went from one carol to another.
O what fun that was to be caught unexpectedly in such Christmas festivity! A little beyond myself, I also giggled and sang along with them. And why not? Even John the Baptist, the infant in Elizabeth’s womb, was leaping for joy at the moment the sound of Mary’s greeting reached Elizabeth’s ears. So children and adults, young and old, the whole world all over, let’s giggle and sing. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16)!
To Know How To Visit
Gerry Pierce, CCSR
In the Bible we often read of God coming into someone’s life through a visit of an angel or of a human being. The Gospel of St Luke begins with an angel visiting Zechariah and another visiting Mary to bring them the news of the extraordinary conception of their children, John and Jesus, respectively. Zechariah declares in his canticle “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel because he has visited his people and set them free.”
More than half of the Gospel of St Luke is telling about Jesus visiting people, having meals with them, and then something happens.
Visits are signs of love. One wants to visit the person one loves. Very often something happens in a visit. A new relationship is set up. A new plan is hatched, a problem is solved. We find Jesus curing the lepers as he visits a town. As he visits Capernaum he cures the centurion’s servant and at Nain he brings the son of the widow back to life. He scandalizes the Pharisees by often eating at the homes of people who, to them, were sinners. Not all visits are at first successful. Jesus’ final visit to Jerusalem was apparently a disaster—he received no hospitality, only crucifixion and death. But resurrection came from this death.
Today’s Gospel records a very special visit: that of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. The story is often used to point out Mary’s charity, her reaching out to the need of another. Having often observed the special depth and vivacity with which pregnant women talk to one another, I see the story first of all as a story about Mary’s humanness. She wanted to share the wonder and joy and mystery of the new life within her, and who would be more receptive to hear her, than someone who was having the same experience. But she was also carrying the savior of the world and Elizabeth was carrying John, the precursor. As the mothers met the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy. She declared “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb… Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.” Mary broke into the Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord….”
There is a sense in which each of us carries the Lord within us and in which each of us is a precursor of Christ. When we meet one another in either planned or chance visits we can support one another in pain, strengthen one another in sorrow, and guide one another in confusion. We can be God’s presence to one another.
Yet, I think, we will only be a visit of Christ, or of his precursor, to one another to the extent that we are present to the divine presence which is within ourselves like a fetus in its mothers womb. When we give attention to that presence we can also give birth to it when we visit one another. Meditation is a way of being present to it. It is a school in which we learn, amongst other things, to know how to visit.
The greatness of the humble Joseph
We need to meditate on these words in order to understand the great trial that Joseph had to endure in the days preceding Jesus’ birth. It was a trial similar to the sacrifice of Abraham, when God asked him for his son Isaac (cf. Gen 22): to give up what was most precious, the person most beloved.
But as in the case of Abraham, the Lord intervenes: he found the faith he was looking for and he opens up a different path, a path of love and of happiness. “Joseph,” he says, “do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20).
This Gospel passage reveals to us the greatness of St Joseph’s heart and soul. He was following a good plan for his life, but God was reserving another plan for him, a greater mission. Joseph was a man who always listened to the voice of God, he was deeply sensitive to his secret will, he was a man attentive to the messages that came to him from the depths of his heart and from on high. He did not persist in following his own plan for his life, he did not allow bitterness to poison his soul; rather, he was ready to make himself available to the news that, in a such a bewildering way, was being presented to him. And thus, he was a good man. He did not hate, and he did not allow bitterness to poison his soul. Yet how many times does hatred, or even dislike and bitterness poison our souls! And this is harmful. Never allow it: he is an example of this. And Joseph thereby became even freer and greater. By accepting himself according to God’s design, Joseph fully finds himself, beyond himself. His freedom to renounce even what is his, the possession of his very life, and his full interior availability to the will of God challenge us and show us the way.
Let us make ourselves ready to celebrate Christmas by contemplating Mary and Joseph: Mary, the woman full of grace who had the courage to entrust herself totally to the Word of God; Joseph, the faithful and just man who chose to believe the Lord rather than listen to the voices of doubt and human pride. With them, let us walk together toward Bethlehem. (20 December 2013)