December 18, 2014
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This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man…decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention…
There are two points I would like to make in this reflection: plans and promptings.
Plans. We all have our plans for the future, and chances are they’re based on quasi “mathematical” predictions, not on God’s divine will.
John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” He, as well as all his fans, learned this lesson the hard way.
I find it remarkable how most things that exist behave rather predictably. A rock will go nowhere in life. A mountain will stay put. A plant will move according to the sun’s rays. A planet will follow its proper orbit. An atom will form a chemical bond if the resulting molecule is more stable. Etc.
But things are not so mathematical when it comes to human existence. Love and relationships are hardly predictable. The stock market…forget about it! We are very far from being predictable. And I would consider that to be one of the greatest differences between human life and everything surrounding it.
And those of us who try to make life predictable are in for a very big, well, surprise.
Promptings. In his first inaugural speech, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the Almighty, of Christianity, of reconciliation and of angels to a very divided nation. Near the end of his speech, he said:
“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
A beautiful speech and wish, but soon after he delivered it, war broke out. So much for being touched by the better angels of our nature. Logical – even quasi mathematical – minds won the day. Selfish interests produced division, which produced war, which resulted in horrific deaths and terrible miseries. Could there have been a better way?
The better angels of our nature. Examining today’s Gospel, it’s clear that Joseph did what was expected of him to do: divorce his pregnant fiancé and leave it up to her to figure it out. The Law, the culture, the traditions were clear to him and to everybody, as clear as 2+2=4. But Joseph was a man of God. He was open to the promptings of angels and the Holy Spirit.
Laws are set in place to make us (humans) more manageable and better governable. And if you think about it, I think we can honestly say we love laws. Really! After all, we pass thousands of them every year! It must be in our DNA. But we can’t blame ourselves too much, since we were created in the image and likeness of God, who with his physical laws and natural law seems to love laws even more than we do.
But God seems to be more of an artist than a lawmaker. He seems to take delight in taking the Law and being risky with it. Maybe this is why man is so different from all of His other creatures. Why does He do it? Maybe it’s to be different. How does He do it? Mostly by mixing the Law with the prompting of His angels, His Holy Spirit and man’s informed conscience. For example:
Such was his intention…to divorce her quietly, unwilling to expose her to shame.
With this in mind, an angel appeared to Joseph and said, “Son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”
Angels, the Holy Spirit, and our willingness to listen and learn are what will make our lives not only complete but inviting, exciting and surprising. Laws have their rightful place. But love puts it all in its proper place: God and man in a stable, in a manger, underneath a star so bright…enjoying the company of better angels.