December 4, 2015
As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out,
“Son of David, have pity on us!”
When he entered the house,
the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them,
“Do you believe that I can do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they said to him.
Then he touched their eyes and said,
“Let it be done for you according to your faith.”
And their eyes were opened.
Jesus warned them sternly,
“See that no one knows about this.”
But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.
My dear fellow pilgrims,
Welcome to Advent, one of my favorite liturgical seasons. A few weeks ago, I mentioned my fondness for Advent to a Franciscan Friar, and when he asked why, I had a hard time explaining. (I assumed that he would just slowly nod and agree.) But in my rambling answer, I learned that I love Advent so much because the season feels like peace in the darkness: the peace of the growing Jesus in the darkness of Mary’s womb, the peace of Mary’s fiat in the darkness of her unknowing. Advent is this slow emergence of God into and through a little human family.
But I have not always felt this way; I have had a hard time warming up to Marian doctrine and dogmas, and one of the hardest dogmas to warm up to was the Immaculate Conception. But somehow, studying human development and meditating through the mystery of the Incarnation through, now, 5 Advents has helped me see clearly that if Mary was Jesus’ only environment for 9 formative months… and He was vulnerable, subjected to the same ways of development that we are all subjected to, Mary had to have been without sin to prevent translating sin from her environment to Him. I’m not schooled in logic or debate, but this is one truth that became evident to me through meditating on the beauty of Mary’s pregnancy, the silent beginning of Jesus’ conception and Mary’s keeping of His secret in her heart and physically in her body.
This year, the tenor of my Advent meditation is a little different, and I have been led to focus on Mary's humanity. Mary must have had to actively protect this promise, and considering the power and value of the promise she kept, the enemy must have attacked and challenged her like no other. I believe in the serene Mary, but I also believe in the staunchly protective Mary who wouldn’t listen to the devil for a minute. The beautiful verse about Mary “pondering all these things in her heart” is more than just a nice image of a contemplative woman, it’s an image of a woman consecrating and protecting her whole self, mind, body and soul, to the work of her Master; she was allowing God to build a strong tower within her that would have to withstand unspeakable threats, a tower and church that would have to grow as the threats grew. Mary was a warrior in her silence and submission to God’s will, for even though the understanding of God’s primacy and love were woven into her being, that understanding had to grow as her vocation grew and transformed, just as discomfort grew as Jesus grew in her womb.
The gospel reading today shows not only Mary's mark on Jesus, as His words to the blind men are similar to Mary's response to the angel, but also how He desires those who receive immense gifts to fiercely protect them; He "warned them sternly" that no one should know about it. Sometimes Jesus tells people to go and tell about miracles and signs, but other times, He commands silence and contemplation to cultivate gratitude for individuals and small groups, to keep His presence intimate and known uniquely by a few, only for a time. This is the inner room where He calls us to grow in waiting, in fierce silence. And when we do heed the Master's commands and resist the temptation to immediately share His gifts, we allow the fact of His unique tenderness for our singular life to seep and penetrate the parts of our identity resistant to believing in the personal applicability of the Gospel. In order to protect this promise and gift of Jesus, we must understand that we NEED to protect it, we NEED to understand that the proper holding of this Advent promise is in the sanctuary of our hearts, in which the new covenant has chosen to be established.
May the peace of Christ seep in your hearts today, and may we respond with a vigilant protection of this peace and earnestly believe in the hope that was born of a poor, immaculate, warrior Virgin Mother.