Life Goes On . . . And On . . . And On
“In the end, the gamble of our life is all on this child.” ~ Saint Padre Pio
Over the next few days leading up to Christmas, the Readings will focus on the “mystery of life,” for lack of a better term.
Yesterday’s Gospel (Luke 1:5-25) tells the story of the Angel Gabriel’s visitation and encounter with Zechariah, who along with Elizabeth would give birth to the man who would go on to become known as John the Baptist, a miraculous occurrence given the advanced age of Elizabeth.
Our 1st Reading from yesterday (Judges 13:2-7, 24-25) heralds the arrival of the boy for whom “no razor shall touch his head,” he within whom the spirit of the Lord stirred, of course I speak of the well-tressed Sampson. The story of Samson and Delilah is obviously one of legend and lore; even the Grateful Dead sung the story of their fateful encounter to sold out stadiums for decades, many of those renditions living on through magic of bootlegging. Yours truly recalls being in attendance on one such occasion amongst the 80,000 or so at Giants Stadium on a starry evening in early August of 1994. Or was it a June afternoon in 1991? Never mind.
Today we revisit the Angel Gabriel’s encounter with Mary (Luke 1:26-38) which of course gave way to the Blessed Mother's Fiat, her “let it be done” moment which culminated in the birth of the child Jesus.
The picture I chose for today’s Reflection, taken outside of a beautiful church I frequent for daily mass named after Saint Ann, one of my very favorite Saints, brings to mind the Protoevangelium of James, yet another story which details the birth of the Blessed Mother to Anna and Joachim, who were both married fifty years and without child until God’s divine plan interceded, thus changing the course of all eternity.
Birth, the gift of life. It is so vital to the very foundation of our faith traditions. For God seeks our cooperation in bringing his divine plan to fruition, all completed in the fullness and richness of time, all for the greater glory of God. All for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
“Let the Lord enter, he is the king of glory” is our appropriately chosen Responsorial Psalm for today. “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? Or who may stand in his holy place? He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain” Psalm 24 goes on to proclaim, and as we draw ever closer to the birth of our Savior, one very poignant fact continues to resonate: until you deal with the problem of sin, everything solution is merely a band-aid.
Tomorrow’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-45) affords us the opportunity to reflect upon the Visitation. Swiss theologian, writer and mystic Adrienne von Speyr points out that “Mary’s pregnancy is a period of unbroken contemplation, of continual attention to the Son. And yet it is a time of action, for she went to Elizabeth in order to bring the Son to her, the gift she had received from God to hand on to others.”
As I read that quote, I can’t help but think about how Mary’s actions mirror what we as Catholics are called to do. We must remain in a state of disciplined contemplation, channeling out all distractions that take us away from the path that leads to eternal life, both for us and those we are called to assist in their pursuit of heaven. We must fix our attention on Jesus. Our time of action is made manifest in our thoughts, words, choices and most importantly in the way we treat our fellow brothers and sisters. Just as Mary brought Jesus to Elizabeth, we too must bring Jesus to others, and that’s tricky nowadays. On the one hand, we cannot hide our light under a bushel basket, but on the other hand, we must use finesse in our approach. But the Holy Spirit will guide us, giving us the words to say, just as Jesus promised his Apostles the “advocate” would do for them. The gift of Jesus, the greatest gift of them all, simply must be shared.
“O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom, come and free the prisoners of darkness”