A Visit and a Song (Part 02/04)

The gift of blessing: Part of what’s so challenging about Mary’s story is its brevity. We know from the Gospel accounts that she’s perplexed by Gabriel’s announcement. We also know that she says yes to the angel’s request, anyway. But so much lies hidden beneath that seemingly quick and simple “yes.” So many questions. So many possibilities. So many occasions for doubt. Again, Luke doesn’t elaborate, but I can well imagine the questions I’d ask if I were in Mary’s place: Is Joseph going to stick around? Will my parents still love me? How will I survive the pain of childbirth? Who will help me when my time comes to deliver? Who will support this baby if my fiancé bails? Who am I to raise the son of God? Is any of this for real, or am I losing my mind?

Into this maelstrom of questions comes an outpouring of blessing: “Blessed are you among women,” Elizabeth tells Mary, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Elizabeth astutely connects the dots in Mary’s story; she makes the connection between trust and blessing. In Elizabeth’s mind, Mary’s “favored” status has nothing to do with wealth, health, comfort, or ease. Her blessing lies solely in her willingness to trust God and to surrender to God’s will. To lean hard into God’s promises and believe that they will sustain her, no matter what.

I wonder how desperately Mary needs this blessing by the time she lands on Elizabeth’s doorstep, exhausted and scared. How badly she needs someone to remind her that even after the angel leaves, the light fades, and the vision recedes, God’s faithfulness remains.

My guess is, Mary carries Elizabeth’s blessing in her heart for the rest of her life. After all, her vocation as Jesus’s mother is not easy. It leads her straight from scandal to danger to trauma to devastation. How blessed can she feel when she delivers her firstborn in a smelly stable? When she becomes a refugee, fleeing to Egypt to prevent her son’s murder? What does blessing feel like for her years later, when her miraculously conceived child is arrested? Beaten? Mocked? Killed?

God’s call on Mary’s life requires her to be profoundly courageous and countercultural, to trust an inner vision few others understand or value. Elizabeth recognizes that Mary’s faith is precious — that faith alone will fuel the ongoing surrender Mary’s journey will require. So she names and blesses Mary’s capacity for deep trust as a gift worth cherishing.

We don’t live in a time or culture that encourages us to bless one another, and that’s a terrible shame. What would it be like to recover Elizabeth’s vocation of blessing? To cultivate spiritual attentiveness? To gaze long and deeply at each other, looking for glimpses of God? How would our churches change if we made a point of discerning, naming, and blessing the divine gifts we see in each other? Elizabeth “exclaims with a loud cry” when she recognizes God’s life-changing work in Mary. What a compelling image. Joy flourishes when we’re willing to humbly bless each other.

to be continued…

#MoralStory: The Golden Slippers

It was only four days before Christmas. The spirit of the season hadn’t yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our local discount store.

Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles. Why did I come today? I wondered.

My feet ached almost as much as my head. My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing but I knew their feelings would be hurt if didn’t buy them anything.

Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift-buying anything but fun. Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. I picked the shortest but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait.

In front of me were two small children – a boy of about 5 and a younger girl. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands. The girl’s clothing resembled her brother’s. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face.

She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers. As the Christmas music sounded in the store’s stereo system, the girl hummed along, off-key but happily.Read More »

Be Born In Me (Mary’s Song)

*

Everything inside me cries for order
Everything inside me wants to hide
Is this shadow an angel or a warrior?
If God is pleased with me, why I am I so terrified?
Someone tell me I am only dreaming
Somehow help me see with Heaven’s eyes
And before my head agrees, my heart is on it’s knees.
Holy is He. Blessed am I.

Be born in me. Be born in me.
Trembling heart, somehow I believe
that You chose me
I’ll hold you in the beginning,
You will hold me in the end

Every moment in the middle,
make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me
All this time we’ve waited for the promise

All this time You’ve waited for my arms
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected
So we might know that Love would go that far?
Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe

that You chose me
I’ll hold you in the beginning,
You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle,
make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me

I am not brave
I’ll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I’m just a girl
Nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours
Be born in me, be born in me
I’ll hold you in the beginning,
You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle,
make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me

#ShortNews: Survey: 74% of US Catholics say cohabitation is acceptable

As more U.S. adults are delaying marriage – or forgoing it altogether – the share who have ever lived with an unmarried partner has been on the rise.

Young adults are particularly accepting of cohabitation – 78% of those ages 18 to 29 say it’s acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together, even if they don’t plan to get married – but majorities across age groups share this view. Still, even among those younger than 30, a substantial share (45%) say society is better off if couples who want to stay together long-term eventually get married. Roughly half of those ages 30 to 49 say the same, as do majorities of those ages 50 and older.

Views about marriage and cohabitation are also linked to religious affiliation. About three-quarters of Catholics (74%) and white Protestants who do not self-identify as born-again or evangelical (76%) say it’s acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together even if they don’t plan to get married. By contrast, only 47% of black Protestants and 35% of white evangelical Protestants share this view. And while half or more across these groups say society is better off if couples who want to stay together long-term eventually get married, white evangelicals are the most likely to say this (78% do so). Among those who are not religiously affiliated, fully nine-in-ten say cohabitation is acceptable even if a couple doesn’t plan to get married, and just 31% say society is better off if couples who want to stay together eventually get married.

Source: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/11/06/marriage-and-cohabitation-in-the-u-s/

#ShortNews: Persecution of Christians in Europe ‘much closer,’ says Hungarian premier

Hungary’s Prime Minister has warned that Europe’s religious, cultural and demographic nature is changing so rapidly that the kind of persecution of Christians taking place in such countries as Syria, Iraq and Nigeria is “much closer” than “many people think.”

In a forthright speech at a major international conference on persecuted Christians in Budapest, Viktor Orbán said the “only thing” that can save Europe is if it “reverts to its real Christian values” along with its “Christian roots and Christian identity.”

Hungarians believe Christian values lead to “peace and happiness,” Orbán continued, which is why the country’s Constitution states that “protection of Christianity is an obligation for the Hungarian state. It obliges us to protect Christian communities throughout the world suffering persecution.”

As Hungary lies on a “pathway” of Muslim migration, Orbán said they feel obligated as Christians to defend their culture, especially as religious, demographic and cultural changes have been exacerbated by “illegal migration that results in uncontrolled migration into Europe.”

Source: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/christian-persecution-in-europe-much-closer-than-many-think-warns-hungarian

#ShortNews: Violence against Christians steadily increasing in India

275 episodes of violence against Indian Christians reported (from January 1st to October 31st 2019) on the toll-free number activated by the “United Christian Forum (UCF) and by the “Alliance for Defending Freedom”( ADF), organizations committed to defending the life and rights of Christian communities in India. As announced to Agenzia Fides, of the 275 episodes of violence reported on the toll-free number, 192 were intimidation and threats by a crowd of militants. We are talking about 27 accidents per month, compared to the average of 20 accidents in 2018. According to data from Fides, 145 women and 106 children were injured in cases of mass violence.

Among the most recent episodes, recorded in October 2019, on October 24, 2019, in a village in the state of Orissa, a group of militants broke into the homes of nine Christian families, burning Bibles and other Christian literature in front of the statue of a Hindu god.

According to data recorded by the “United Christian Forum (UCF) and “Alliance for Defending Freedom” (ADF) since 2014, attacks on Christians have steadily increased: they were 147 in 2014, 177 in 2015, 208 in 2016, 240 in 2017; 292 in 2018.

Source: http://www.fides.org/en/news/67011-ASIA_INDIA_Violence_against_Christians_the_growing_trend_is_confirmed