Friday, 22 December 2017

22 December

Readings: 1 Samuel 1:24-28; 1 Sam 2:1,4-8; Luke 1:46-56

I heard of a man who visited his wife every day in the nursing home where she spent her last years. She had dementia and needed constant care. His son asked him about the difficulty of doing this. 'It is not difficult at all', his father said, 'on the contrary, because she is as beautiful today as she was when I first met her'.

The Lord, the God of Israel, is saying this to Israel and to the Church, in the readings we hear these days and in the events they relate. God sees 'us' as beautiful and fruitful, even when we ourselves fear otherwise. This long love story between God and His people means that the ragged and aged lovers that we are, are found to be beautiful, are seen in our lowliness and poverty and need, are still awaited and are not just waiting.

We rarely think of this in Advent, that God too is waiting, for us. In his encyclical letter on the theological virtue of hope, Pope Benedict quotes Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave who became a nun in an Italian convent, a woman of extraordinary spiritual wisdom. 'I am definitively loved', she says, 'and whatever happens to me - I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.' What an extraordinary simple and profound explanation of 'grace': I am awaited by this Love, and so my life is good.

The Magnificat contains the same teaching: all generations will call me blessed (graced), because He who is mighty has done great things for me (for Mary, Elizabeth, Israel, the Church, you, me). There is no need to go looking to see who is meant by the poor and the rich, the hungry and the mighty, the lowly and the proud. It is us, all of us, and each of us, and every aspect of us: wherever our freedom responds to goodness and love we are poor and hungry and lowly, and so become rich; wherever it fails to do so we are rich and mighty and proud, and so become poor.

Hence our joy in these days, and in all the days of our life; not because we love God and wait for Him, but because God loves us and awaits us. 'I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.'

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