Read this in a heavy Yiddish accent:
“And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”
– Elizabeth to Mary.
It makes the whole scene come alive, as if it were taking place in a Jewish deli in Crown Heights!
I’ve learned a lot from Jewish people over the years. Friends and colleagues and now even family have offered me much from their tradition. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from these folks is gratitude. When something wonderful happens, every Jewish person I know says the same thing!
Who am I? Why should this have happened to me?
And so Elizabeth’s greeting of Mary sharpens that scene with her own Jewish lilt:
Who am I that the mother of our Lord should come to me?
Who are any of us that God should come to us?
At mass today, Fr. Xavier reminded us of the truth of today’s gospel. Which is that in fact, God had been with His people all along. But now, God is no longer removed from human experience, God comes to us as a human being, a baby that needs the humanity surrounding Him for protection, but ironically it is us that end up needing the baby far more.
It’s easy for us to forget that we need God. It’s why these holidays are so important to celebrate. They remind. We bring God into our consciousness when we amble along in our own day to day lives. We forget about God so often that the church insists one returning to church once a week. Jesus reminds his disciples in the garden that they couldn’t stay awake for even an hour.
Perhaps advent is our opportunity to remind ourselves that God is in our midst always….not merely once a year at Christmas. It’s also an opportunity to remember that even when we do forget, God is always waiting for us.
The eclipsed spirituality that we all have from time to time means that other things in our lives often take precedence over our need to express our spirituality. The kids, the work, the to-do list, the never ending rat race…all of that muck.
But could it be? No, it can’t be…
Somewhere in the mess of our lives we find God in all of that activity!
We just need to be awake enough to notice it.
Mary DeTurris Poust,in her latest book, Cravings (full review coming in January), reminds us about the need for us to be mindful of God in the rhythm of our lives. We all need to eat and Mary reminds us of how the cycle of our meal preparations can take on a more prayerful meaning. Eating slowly and more purposefully, concentrating on the food can bring a sense of connecting with the divine and with gratitude in our lives.
I often eat breakfast alone. And as I do these days, I find myself falling into the silence of the morning and finding that time to pray amongst the bites. This afternoon my wife and I ate at a local Panera. I found myself taking a bite and clasping my hands…a prayer position and a healthier way to eat as well. It brought to mind the fact that the Holy Family may have been quite hungry that blessed night. Joseph worked hard and must have appreciated a good meal when he got one after a hard day and a long journey.
And the coffee clatch we see today of Mary and Elizabeth speaking of the miracle of God coming into our humanity—a huge surprise— gave me such joy to hear. How much they enjoyed each other’s company that day. Do we use a meal to connect with God and reconnect with one another, looking for God in our day? Or do we eclipse the spiritual moment and shovel food in our mouths and distract ourselves with texting or iPads, or sports scores or other “fillers” that don’t fill us at all?
This advent may our spirituality not become an eclipsed moment, but rather may all of our moments now become an opportunity to find God, lurking amongst us!
Emmanuel, God is with us! Alleluia!