My relationship with Jesus suffers during the Christmas season. I know it’s suppose to be the opposite, a time when we draw near to Christ, but it’s not for me.
I decided it might help if I “shake things up a bit.” So I plugged into today’s reading from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Today’s lectionary reading was from Luke 1: 26-38.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.” (emphasis mine)
Then the angel departed from her.
I’ve read this passage a million times (okay not a million but a lot)! Today I was struck by Mary’s response. I know, I know you’re not, you too have read it a lot. But it caught me today.
I found myself having a quick dialogue (monologue with Mary).
What? Are you crazy?
This is going to get ugly.
How can you so quickly say, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word?”
Then I moved on. No need to get too serious about this kind of stuff. Move on Jackie.
So I went to pray as you go to spend further time in meditation. Again the passage was Luke 1:26-38. This time I was to imagine (to hear, see and feel) three scenes: Humanity (people on earth), the Holy Trinity about to break into humanity, and the scene with Gabriel and Mary.
Humanity: I saw beauty, creativity, building, laughter, love, eating, dancing, (it was Jewish dancing like Fiddler on the Roof, go figure!) excitement, and adventure. I saw destruction, buildings being blown up, war, starving children, and girls sex trafficked. It’s there – all in one picture. Humanity is both divine image and evil (and everything in between).
Holy Trinity: I saw them with their arms embracing each other – heads bent down like they were in a football huddle. I saw exuberance over what was about to happen – I saw the overwhelming love. The kind a mother has towards her child. (Oh, how they love their kids. Proud of us. Welled up when seeing us.) I saw agony. Grief over the pain that must come to overcome. All in one picture – exuberance and agony.
Mary: I saw a young girl – shocked.
How can you not be? An angel is speaking! Shock.
Disbelief. Furrowed brow (trying to comprehend this is nearly impossible). Fear.
Now I know, this isn’t how the text describes Mary. But this is my time in meditation through imagination so let me have it. Truth is it’s how I would be. Shocked. Afraid. In disbelief.
Shock. Mostly shock.
Again I found myself having a conversation with her.
Mary, are you crazy? You’re so young. How can you even know what’s about to happen to you?
Shame. Your people will see you as a slut and you will be shamed.
Crazy. People are going to think your crazy!
Not to mention the agony you will have when they kill him. They are going to KILL him.
The one you nursed at your breast.
You’re going to watch them put him to death, a shameful death.
Mary, how can you say, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Truth is I wish I could say that but I can’t. It’s not like me to go towards shame, pain and self-sacrifice. I want to be able to say what Mary said but I can’t.
That’s where I left my time with Jesus today. Encountering him. Being honest with him.
Jesus, I still can’t say what Mary said and if you don’t overcome me I never will.