More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


God's Immersion Into Humanity

Sr. Eleanor Mary Marconi
IHM Center, Scranton, PA
December 21, 2005

The following reflection was given at a advent service at the IHM Center.

We gather to pray this evening encircled by our Lady, the Virgin Mary, whose feast of the Immaculate Conception we celebrated on Monday and whose feast as Our Lady of Guadalupe we will celebrate on Friday. We ask Mary's blessing as we reflect during this Advent time.

Advent is about our longing for God, the God who has already come to be with us, Emmanuel. Advent is about our living God who has already come to be with us, Emmanuel.
"Indeed, my heart shall sing of the day you bring and the world is about to turn."
(Canticle of Mary – Rory Cooney)

For a child is born for us, a son is given to us.
Porque nos ha nacido un nino – Dios nos ha dado un hijo.

The divine and the human intermingle – and nothing can ever be the same. God is immersed into humanity and all our relationships now merge into One. As we wait in hope for the coming of the Lord, we catch only glimpses of this oneness when we know ourselves not to be alone, but rather to be intricately connected to all that is. In an excerpt from Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Shug, one of the characters, speaks to this:
One day when I was feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come
to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separated at all. I
knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and I cried
and I run all round the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it
happen, you can't miss it.
Thomas Merton and others have also expressed this glimpse of the relatedness of all creation—a glimpse into the fullness of God's love for all.

God is immersed in our weak, sinful humanity and becomes one with us. God who takes on human flesh gifts us with a deep, insistent longing for the Divine.

What are we waiting for?
Que estamos esperando?

Ultimately, we are waiting for this deep, insistent longing for God to be realized at the second coming of Christ. Yet, even as we wait in joyful hope we are challenged to practice the teachings of Jesus – to proclaim the good news, to heal the sick, to comfort the brokenhearted, to work for justice for the oppressed.

We the people in darkness, have seen a great light – in the compassion of God already revealed to us in Christ Jesus.

Advent is a wondrous time in our liturgical year when we are reminded to rest, to sit attentively in God's presence to await a new realization of the revelation of God in our day. It is a paradox that one of the busiest times of the year, the Christmas season, is precisely the time that we are reminded to stop, be still. God is like that – paradox floods upon us at every twist and turn in the Gospel. It is in the stillness that God is born now once again in us and is revealed anew.

It is out of the stillness that God calls us to be light to those still in darkness, to speak a word to the weary, the immigrant, the poor, the oppressed, those longing to belong, a word that will strengthen them, a word that recognizes them as sister, brother, friend and beloved of God. Our Advent waiting, longing is not just for God in the future. It is a challenge for us now to act with justice, to love tenderly, to walk humbly with God.

Que estamos esperando?
What are we waiting for?

We are waiting, like Mary, for God's revelation in our lives, in our day. How can Mary's experience teach us so that, like her, we are open and ready when God's messenger appears. An excerpt from The Wounded Prophet, A Portrait of Henri J. M. Nouwen by Michael Ford (Doubleday, 1999) I believe gives us some insight into Mary's experience.
Mary's first response to the angel's greeting – "rejoice, you who enjoy God's
favor! The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28) – was fear. Mary was "deeply
disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeing could mean"
(Luke 1:29). For Nouwen, this is where all theology starts. God broke into
history and Mary, after hearing the word, did not run away but started to ask
what the painful interruption might mean and discovered it to be a moment
of revelation. According to Nouwen, the theologian responding in faith to
the situation of the moment discovers God's active presence in the midst of
pain and , trusting in that presence, dares to raise a question, such as Mary's
"But how can this come about?" (Luke 1:34). A theological question is not
an attempt to disqualify what is present but a prayerful request to be more
deeply led into the truth. Nouwen argued that the final words of Mary at the
Annunciation – "You see before you the Lord's servant: let it happen to me as
you have said" show clearly the aim of all theology. They create the inner
space in which God's word can happen to us: 'The purpose of theological
understanding is not to grasp, control, or even use God's word, but to become
increasingly willing to let the word of God speak to us, guide us, move us,
and lead us to places far beyond our own comprehension.' (John Mogabgab,
The Spiritual Pedagogy of Henri Nouwen)

Mary's openness and desire to engage with God's messenger allowed her to hear God, to be guided by God, to move in the direction of God and to be led to places far beyond her own comprehension. We, too, are called to such openness and desire to engage with God's messengers if we truly want to birth God anew in our world today.

What are we waiting for?
Que estamos esperando?

In stillness we wait and the longing for God grows deeper within us. If the stillness is born of a true desire for God, the longing growing within us will move us to realize more fully our baptismal call to service and personal transformation.

We are bound to one another through the God in whose image we are made. While any one of us is poor, sick, brokenhearted, oppressed, we are bound to serve each other to bring healing, hope and justice in action and not just in thought.

In a letter to a friend, C. S. Lewis writes:
We read of spiritual efforts, and our imagination makes us believe that,
because we enjoy the idea of doing them, we have done them. I am
appalled to see how much of the change which I thought I had undergone
lately was only imaginary. The real work seems still to be done. It is so
fatally easy to confuse an aesthetic appreciation of the spiritual life with
the life itself-to dream that you have waked, washed, and dressed and then
to find yourself still in bed.
We are reminded of the adage of the Chinese sage, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

Is our Advent waiting this year leading us to take one step so that when we have waked, washed and dressed we will find ourselves not still in bed but about the work of bringing light and hope into the darkness, to proclaim the good news&.
Porque nos ha nacido un nino – Dios nos ha dado un hijo.
For a child is born for us, a son is given to us.

Fear may be at our side as openness to God's way presents itself. Yet, like Mary our waiting in stillness and desire for God can give us the courage we need to begin with one step to realize the Kingdom of God in our very midst where the immigrant, the poor, the oppressed, the outcast are welcomed. God's immersion into our humanity made it very clear that all of creation is precious in God's sight. I believe it is God's desire that our immersion into the Divine will make it also very clear that all of creation is precious in our sight.

We opened our prayer this evening remembering that it is International Human Rights Day. All of creation precious in God's sight – how precious is it in our sight? As we heard Eleanor Roosevelt say: "Where after all do human rights begin? In small places close to home, such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity."

In small places close to home we are called to bring light and hope to those who wait in darkness. What we long for can be so close to us but missed because we are looking for something else, somewhere else. Dewitt Jones in his video, Celebrating What's Right With the World, says that "if we believe it, we will see it."

Wilkie Au (The Enduring Heart, Paulist Press, 2000) records a rabbinical story that expresses well the truth that what we long for can be discovered exactly in the earthly context where God has placed us, not in some idealized heavenly city. The heavenly city is right where we are – if we believe we are in it, we will see it.

In the hiddenness of time there was a poor man who left his village, weary of
his life, longing for a place where he could escape all the struggles of this earth.
He set out in search of a magical city-the heavenly city of his dreams, where all
things would be perfect. He walked all day and by dusk found himself in a
forest, where he decided to spend the night. Eating the crust of bread he had
brought, he said his prayers and, just before going to sleep, placed his shoes in
the center of the path, pointing them in the direction he would continue the
next morning. Little did he imagine that while he slept, a practical joker would
come along and turn his shoes around, pointing them back in the direction from
which he had come.

The next morning, in all the innocence of folly, he got up, gave thanks to the
Lord of the Universe, and started on his way again in the direction that his
shoes pointed. For a second time he walked all day, and toward evening finally
saw the magical city in the distance. It wasn't as large as he had expected. As
he got closer, it looked curiously familiar. But he pressed on, found a street
much like his own, knocked on a familiar door, greeted the family he found
there-and lived happily ever after in the magical city of his dreams.

Isn't it right where we are that God calls us to see one another, to touch each other's wounds and bring a healing energy into our midst that will radiate throughout the whole earth?
Recently a reflection from St. basil was shared with me that speaks clearly to this.
What keeps you from giving now? Isn't the poor person there? Aren't
your own warehouses full? Isn't the reward promised? The command is
clear: the hungry person is dying now, the naked person is freezing now,
the person in debt is beaten now-and you want to wait until tomorrow?

Last month Sr. Terry O'Rourke shared a profound message with us as we joined together to celebrate our founders. I would like to recall part of her reflection in which she said:
We are immersed in a culture and a world context that hungers for
the message of God's unconditional love.
Death events are far too frequent and of massive proportion.
The greed of one impoverishes the other individually and globally.
Far too many of our brothers and sisters around the world and here at
home have little or no sense of belonging.
And consequently, few reasons to hope for a preferable future.
This is our world, our time, no other!

Jesus immersed himself in our world in his time and took the step toward healing and love, coming as light in the darkness, bearing good news and bringing hope. This is our world in our time, will we take the step toward healing and love to be light in the darkness, bearers of good news and hope? For after all,
A child is born for us, a son is given to us.
Dios nos ha dado un hijo.

I close with the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: "When will our consciousness grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?"

The consciousness of God was grown so tender that Jesus the Christ was immersed into our humanity to teach us how to prevent human misery rather than avenge it. "My heart shall sing of the day you bring and the world is about to turn.

Que estamos esperando?
What are we waiting for?