The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God – Cycle B
Reflecting on Luke 2:16-21
One Christmas Eve, while on pilgrimage to Israel, my husband and I took a memorable walk to Bethlehem from Shepherd’s Field. This is the field that remembers the sacred place where the shepherds—that group who were considered so unclean that their testimony was not honored in court—saw the angel, who entrusted to them the greatest news in the history of the world. Then the heavens opened and they saw “a multitude of the heavenly host” praising God.
Ben and I decided to follow their footsteps from Shepherd’s Field that Christmas Eve afternoon. We “went in haste” those three miles, which gradually got steeper as they led to the Church of the Nativity. Breathless and with hearts bursting, we entered the church which, at Midnight Mass in ten hours, would be packed with pilgrims from around the world. But at this moment we were alone. We climbed down the dark stairs that led to the ancient cave where the shepherds found “Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.” Then those shepherds, those “outlaws”, testified to them what they had been told about Jesus.
What peace we felt there in that cave on that Christmas Eve. As we walked out into the December chill we promised to increase our own testimony of Jesus, and to work harder for peace on earth, and goodwill towards all.
Are there places in your heart that can’t embrace a God who has love for all people?
This column is dedicated to our dearest friend in Jerusalem, Rev. Goran Larsson, who is friend to Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy City. He has walked from Shepherd’s Field to Bethlehem many times, but his life and his extraordinary spirit brings believers to the place where they can find Jesus.
What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.
I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).
On first consideration, I have to admit that there are places in my heart that wonder how God can love some people. Those who deliberately hurt others — setting out to do so — and not only having no regrets for doing so, but actually get pleasure out of inflicting that pain. I don’t understand living that way.
I know that God loves them, but they seem to go out of their way to resent that love. I realize that I have hurt others in my life, but I can honestly say that I never intentionally set out to hurt anyone. And, when I have inflicted hurt/pain, I have tremendous regrets about it.
I have to remind myself that I need to separate actions from the person who commits those actions. This is really difficult!
When I was younger I had a thing about jail and prison. It was kind of the “commit the crime, do the time thing.” It was easy to judge. Something changed in my life as I grew older and experienced life more fully. Perhaps it was the taste of mercy… meeting Jesus more deeply in prayer, Scripture, Just Faith, in myself and others.
As I trained as a spiritual director, one of the requirements was to be involved with the poor and the marginalized. I chose to do spiritual direction at the local detention center. Every week I went and listened to the inmates’ stories, listened to God present with us, prayed with them, encouraged them. Every week I came home more and more humbled by the privilege they offered me as they shared their souls with me. Me with my self-righteousness, arrogance, and foolishness… I was going to bring God to them. In truth, they taught me about the places in my heart that needed to open themselves to a forgiving, non-judgmental God, whose embrace included not only the inmates but also had room for me.
I notice that it has become easier for me to “forgive enemies” like the Taliban, Al Qaeda, etc but still in need of grace to forgive annoying, obnoxious people in social settings. – – Cris
Thanks, Bobbie, for your comment. When I take Communion to the elderly on Tuesday mornings, they are so grateful, but I realize that I get way more out of that than they do.
Cris, your comment made me smile. It is truly easier to forgive from a distance than it is to forgive the annoying and obnoxious people in our circle. Mark Twain said it best, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”