MOTHERHOOD, MEDITATION AND MODELLING

FAITH IN FOCUS: MOTHERHOOD, MEDITATION AND MODELLING

 It seems such an obvious thing to say, but Mary is the Mother of God. It’s obvious because we hear it said so many times in our lives, yet astounding when we pause to think what it really means. “Bearer of God” was the very first title officially given to Mary by the Church several centuries after her death.

 A God who is so powerful that he could have chosen to come down to earth as some sort of spectacular phantasm, to arrive here With armies and cohorts, or at least to come here already grown as an adult, this God chose to become a baby that was carried by a young girl and nurtured in a primitive village of the Middle East.

We honour Mary for being chosen, one of our own human race, to co-operate with God in this mysterious and mystifying reality. For she is the Mother of Jesus, and Jesus is God. 

Yet she can’t have been just any kind of girl. It must have taken a special personality to be attentive to what God was asking of her.

Religious art traditionally depicts Mary in prayer when the angel announced she was to be the mother of Jesus. Just carrying Jesus for nine months wasn’t enough.

Mary had to enter in faith into God’s plan, even though she didn’t understand its full implications. And this meant that she had to be the sort of reflective person that is open and attentive to God’s presence and voice. St Luke tells us that she pondered all these things in her heart. Her life of meditation must have thrown up so many strange and frightening questions. But in prayer she talked with God.

 Mary is a model of our response in faith to God. She is the pattern of trust and surrender that is demanded of all those who are baptised into Christ’s Church. One of the more recent titles given to the Virgin Mary was by Pope

Paul VI who called her “Mother of the Church”. For what she did to serve God in her life is what is demanded of each of us: to be attentive to what God is asking of us personally, to place our trust in God’s powerful presence and grace, and then to find God in all the circumstances of our lives as we respond in Christ to the challenges that meet us daily.

 

JUST LIKE YOU

FAITH IN FOCUS: JUST LIKE YOU

The greatest compliment that anyone can pay you is to tell you that they want to be like you.

And the wonder of Christmas is that God decided to become one of us. He could have chosen a million different ways of leading us fully to himself, but he chose to take on our frail human nature and live subject to all the limitations of our earthly existence. His very name, Emmanuel, means God-with-us. Quite a compliment!

But why did God do it? Quite simply, God became a human being so that he could show human beings how to become like God. Jesus is God’s way to be a man, God’s way to be a woman. 

Although we love to dwell on the Christmas scene, and there’s no harm in that, it’s actually what Jesus did as an adult that makes a difference to our lives. For it was his way of life and his teaching that offer us the chance of living our lives to the full. Instead of leaving us with a catalogue of regulations, Jesus told us to serve God and treat our neighbour in the same way that we would like to be treated ourselves.

The birth of any baby sets our thoughts on the future. What will become of the child? What lies in store for them in their family life and eventual career? What sort of a person will they be?

Similarly, the Bethlehem scene already hints at the future. For the newborn child will be responsible for the falling and the rising of many, we are told. This is because whether we choose to follow Jesus or not has cosmic consequences: it affects not only our life here on earth, how we live and the people we try to become, but also our future state of happiness in eternity. The manger contains a promise: those who follow this baby will see the face of God.

So Christmas summons each one of us to give birth too, to bring Christ to others. Our glory is to stand before the world as a son or daughter of God, sharing the same nature as God’s Son Jesus. We are called to love what is most deeply human in each other and in ourselves, and to see God’s living Son made flesh and reflected in those whose lives we touch.

For they are just like us. And just like God!

 

A PERFECT CHRISTMAS~

FAITH IN FOCUS: A PERFECT CHRISTMAS?

 By now you’re probably fed up with all the adverts to get you to spend your money in order to have “the Christmas you and your family deserve”. But is there such a thing as a perfect Christmas?

 It might not have seemed so for Mary. She had every reason to dread that first Christmas. A young teenage girl, she now finds herself having a baby and is unmarried. What will her family say? How’s she going to explain things to Joseph? And what about the neighbours? There’ll be tongues wagging all over the place and she’ll probably being living under a cloud for years to come. Only she and God would ever really understand. And she didn’t understand much.

Joseph probably wasn’t looking forward to that first Christmas either. For him it didn’t look too promising. People would point him out as the husband who’d been the last to know. They’d wonder why he didn’t simply ditch Mary. And he probably had a nagging feeling that all these strange dreams were storing up trouble for the future.

 Joseph and Mary are good examples of the untidiness of human existence, of how things rarely go according to plan. It’s strange, isn’t it,that God couldn’t find some perfect parents for his only Son? He ends up with these two.

 Maybe that’s what Christmas is about. Perhaps one of its jobs is to remind us that into our “screwed up” planet, into the bleak complexity of our private lives, into a world where achievements never seem to match up to yearnings, into the higgledy-piggledy days of our existence…the infant God is born.

 God could have chosen some ideal scenariointo which to be born. But he chose one that was profoundly human instead. It was all so fragile: Mary had to trust the angel; Joseph had to trust Mary; God had to trust them both.

 Christmas is almost upon us and we’re surely not on top of things; in fact, we’re probably dreading some. But if this week we were able to realise that the child Jesus offers to keep being born into the jumble of our human lives, no matter how untidy they are, then we would have experienced a great truth. And despite all the stress and strain we would have had a perfect Christmas into the bargain.

 

THE RIGHT ONE

FAITH IN FOCUS: THE RIGHT ONE

John the Baptist has some second thoughts about Jesus in today’s gospel. After preaching about the coming of the Messiah for so long, John now finds himself in prison and things don’t seem to be working out as he had expected. So he asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?”

It seems that John thought the Messiah would be much more militant and political than Jesus. It’s quite comforting that John can have his ideas on the Messiah turned upside down; if he needs to take a second look then so do we. His ideas of what Jesus was about proved to be out of synch with reality. And ours often are equally wide of the mark.

In fact, John even wondered whether his cousin Jesus was the right one. Yet Jesus replies that John should open his eyes and look around: those who are blind, deaf, lame and lepers are being cured and the Good News is being preached to the poor. All of these things were known to be signs that the Messiah had arrived.

What about us? Are we sure we’ve got the right idea about Jesus? When he comes again ought we to be worried or should we be joyfully expecting him? Is he coming to bring vengeance or is he “on our side”. Will he condemn or save?

 Having second thoughts about Jesus allows us to get things in perspective. It allows us to see Advent as a joyful season of expectation. It lets us realise that fear is out of place for those who await Christ’s coming. It encourages us to actively look forward to the promises that God has made to us through his Son. It permits us to sing “Come, Lord Jesus” and really mean it.

And so Advent invites us to yearn for the coming of that joyful day when our salvation will be fully revealed. John the Baptist had to have a rethink about Jesus. Advent summons us to do the same. Is Christ’s coming something we look forward to or something we secretly dread?

 

DOES IT BITE?

A pet-shop owner was explaining recently that small children have no fear whatsoever of snakes, lizards or any other reptiles. Fear is something they learn from adults. Parents are regularly heard, he said, telling their small children to come away from “that horrible thing” and look at the puppies instead.

Advent is a time when we learn the lesson of the pet-shop. We are given a vision of what God intended the world to be and we are reminded that it is up to us to co-operate with God’s grace to share in his work of building up once more a kingdom in which lions and calves, wolves and lambs have no fear of each other.

 hen the bible comes to explain this phenomenon it points to the early days when the created world was at harmony, to the days of paradise when men and women enjoyed fully the life that God had created them for. It was our own greed and disobedience of God that caused us to become creators, but creators of sin, conflict, division and misery. We were born into such a world, but we have all co-operated in keeping it far from perfect by the way we behave.

So Advent invites us to act and to change things. John the Baptist plunged into the Jordan those who wanted to change themselves and to transform the world. He preached a baptism for those who were ready to repent, to smooth out the rocky paths of their lives and prepare for the coming of the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

 That’s why Advent is about waiting for the coming of our redeemer, but not about waiting idly as if for a bus to come. It’s a time when at our liturgy we celebrate the mystery of God’s coming among us to show us how to live and be fulfilled, how to create a world where fear and hatred, sin and division have no permanent hold.

 When we gather together to hear God’s word and to share the food of life at the table of the Lord, we ask that the Holy Spirit may embolden us to take practical steps towards repentance and reconciliation. 

Advent not only teaches us that life can be better; it gives us the means to make it so.