“to feel God’s presence…stop focusing on the bad that others do”
The last Sunday of Advent always turns to the pregnancy of Mary: the maiden is with child. Sounds simple, hey? But the word “maiden” means: young lady; a lady of common “stock”. And the “child” is God becoming a visible and equal partner in your life and my life.
God came at a moment in history when the Roman’s oppressed the “chosen people”. God did not come to walk with us when life was easy or pleasant – in a worldly sense.
Unless you want to just “enjoy” a party on Christmas Day, it’s important to identify what we will celebrate as the birth of Christ in your “world”.
Where do you see God joining humanity in your community, in my community? In a Global sense, I feel inspired and hopeful when I see the actions of two people:
- Greta Thunberg: she’s a maiden. She’s being ridiculed by the people who don’t agree with her. Her history of mental illness has been dragged up as an attempt to dismiss or minimise her message about climate change. But, she’s courageous. Her previous mental illness is, to me, a positive element in proving that God has joined with humanity and is speaking to us through her. I’m not 100% convinced about climate change, but I’m 100% convinced that people are abusing the earth and we need to make radical changes to protect the environment.
The maiden is with child: Greta Thunberg is young and “a nobody” so that tells me it’s possible that God is working through her.
- Donald Trump – he’s hardly a “maiden”! People are attacking him for many things, and especially his stance on pro-life issues against abortion. I think it’s more than just politics – even the pro-life activists are surprised by his efforts against abortion at the U.N.
The maiden is with child: D. Trump is an outsider in terms of his behaviour: at various times he lacks manners; he’s rude to some people; he’s not consistent in his pro-life message; he’s accused of abusing power. He comes from the rich, the elite: hardly a typical “nobody” that God would work through. But Jesus came from the line of David. That line had lost its shine and status, but it was still noble. The rich and powerful have largely lost their shine, but God can still work through them (the unjust judge who eventually gives the poor woman justice).
Whether you agree with me or not about the examples above, I believe they serve the purpose of challenging each of us to look at where Christ is being born today, in our backyards.
The people we expect the least may be the place where God is once more joining hands with us. We tend to look for perfection: the perfect man, the perfect woman, the perfect priest,
who will reveal God to us today. But let us read our Psalm again:
“Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord? … The man with clean hands and pure heart, who desires not worthless things.”
“Clean hands” does not mean a perfect non-sinful person. But one who keeps washing their hands (acknowledging their failures and trying again).
“Pure heart” does not mean never having a bad thought, but whether our focus is in the right place, the right direction, the right purpose. Along the journey we all have flat tires, broken fan-belts, and overheating engines. But we know where we are going.
Before people dismiss one or both of my two examples, ask yourself if you are doing a perfect job of what you promised to do: a good priest, a good mum, a good dad, an honest worker?
St Paul reminds us about: “the good news that God promised long ago”… “This news is about the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took…”
We believe Mary was pure – without sin – but that does not extend to the group he started which we call disciples and apostles. Some of them would be labelled “terrorists” today.
Look around and see the good that people are doing, and give thanks to God for inspiring those that do it. Next, let us look at ourselves: what are we doing that prevents God from joining hands with me in order to bring Christ into the world?
Where do I block God’s mercy for others? Where do I withhold God’s generosity to others? Between now and Christmas, can we be challenged to look out for the “maiden”, and try to become a “maiden” ourselves: humble and gentle.
This is the purpose of Advent: to open our eyes properly: to learn to see GOODNESS again.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI