Sunday, December 24, 2017

Mary's Reactions: Pondering, Puzzled, Positive (2017-12-24, Advent)

[4th SUNDAY OF Advent]  2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16 •• Psalm 89 ••Romans 16:25-27 •• + Luke 1:26-38

[__01_]  It requires some extra internal imagination and devotion to recall the remains of the 4th Sunday of Advent. Pay no attention – on the altar and here in church -- to the Christmas trees, poinsettias, wreaths your 12/25 proximate preparations at home, et cetera, et cetera …

[__02_] While Mary is hailed as full of grace -- and blessed art thou amongst women  -- did Mary not also call upon some internal – interior – vision for this gift of God which arrives without ornamentation or decoration.

          Right now, it is only a word, a promise that both STARTS and FINISHES in solitude. 

          Yes, the angel appears to Mary telling her not to be afraid, inviting her to be the Mother of God.

          But, in the end, the angel departed from her. Mary – without human physical companionship – she is outwardly “solo” though inwardly saved and blessed.

[__03__] Pope Benedict XVI wrote about the 3 steps – 3 reactions of Mary (The Infancy Narratives: Jesus of Nazareth, 33-37) at the Annunciation.

          Mary PONDERS; Mary is PUZZLED; Mary is POSITIVE.

[__04__] PONDERING …

Mary ponders without what I normally experience as the parallel emotion of distress.

          When do I find myself pondering … or in deep thought?

          [MATH-ACAD.] Long division. The difference between radius and diameter. Interest rates.

          Academically – and intellectually – we ponder.

          When do I ponder?

          [MSG-MEM.] If my phone were to ring or receive a message at certain hours of the day or night, I ponder – what did I forget to do? What do I need to do?

          [DIFF.PERS.] If I bump into someone who makes me uncomfortable, I tend to ponder, perhaps, my “dislike”, my “envy”, my “revenge…” 

          Mary invites you and me to ponder – to recall – to remember what God has done in our lives and what God can do in our lives with our cooperation, both internally and externally.

          This Annunciation moment is retained – pondered – by Mary and shared by Mary with Jesus, his disciples. It becomes part of the Gospel. Mary is the only witness.

          It is her podcast and it is a reminder that our ponderings can also be podcasts for GOODNESS, for GRATITUDE, for the GLORY OF GOD.


          Mary is neither the 1st nor the last person to be puzzled by God’s will or ways. Mary asks, “how can this be?”

          Similarly, Sarah – wife of Abraham in the Book of Genesis was puzzled that she could have a child in her advanced age.

          Sarah laughs at God at this information …then when asked “why did you laugh?”, she denies it.

          These are classic psychological reactions to being puzzled. That is, being puzzled, we retreat into ourselves, go into hiding and possibly denial. We want to solve the problem on our own terms without the help of God or neighbor.

          Mary, OTOH (on the other hand), does what is difficult. Calmly, with tranquility, she asks – “tell me more” …. “how can this be?” …. “OK, so what is the plan…”

          Mary PONDERS; Mary is PUZZLED.

[__06__] And, 3rd, Mary is POSITIVE. Through Mary’s affirmation, we are made not only brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ, to the Son of God, but we are also made brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ and to each other.

          A mother reminds her child  -- you and me – of relationships and responsibilities – POSITIVELY – we have to each other.

          And, yes, LOVE and RESPONSIBILITY call us to PONDER, sometimes to fear of commitment or fear of not keeping our commitments.

          Asking for forgiveness, admitting our wrongdoing – or the true reason – even to ourselves – can be puzzling, troubling.

          We also ask – how can this be?

          Mary gets ready herself – on the way – we are called to the same.

 [__07__]   In 2008, on Martin Luther King Day, a Monday evening / at night, I was in the rectory talking on the phone to a friend on “Line 1” of the rectory telephone system, when “Line 2” began to ring.

          I was asked, “Is Father Joe Petrillo there?”  As so many of us remember fondly, Father Joe – our beloved pastor until he passed away around this time of year in 2013.

          “May I speak to Father Joe Petrillo, please”

          Hearing the matter-of-fact tone of voice, I detected no  emergency for a priest in general. I asked the person to HOLD and I resumed my conversation and wrapped it up about a minute later.

          I engaged / picked up LINE 2 and said, “Sorry, Father Joe is not available – may I ask who is calling?”

          “This is Archbishop Myers.”

          Mentally considering that Father Joe was in charge of all priest-personnel assignments and that this is the AB, I was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

          I reported that Father Joe was unavailable and out for the evening and took the message that Archbishop Myers had called.

[__08__] Then I started to get puzzled.  In 2008, Father Joe, God rest his soul, had a cell phone, mobile phone but it was always powered-off. Could I reach Father Joe?

          How can this be?

          I knew he was visiting a friend in Wilmington, Delaware because he always did the same trip annually on Martin Luther King Day with the same people, same visit.  Clockwork. That’s Father Joe.

          I called one of his friends on a cell phone that was NOT turned off and was able, positively, to connect Father Joe à Archbishop Myers.

 [__09__] Some puzzles invite us to look beyond our own competency and calculations.  “How can this be?” invites us to consider where God’s grace is present, in another person, in our own conscience, in God’s word to us each day.

          Can God not be glorified in the puzzles, the mysteries of my life?

          Interrupted. Mary is interrupted. She is alone. We are interrupted sometimes causing MADNESS or GLADNESS.

          But, it is then that we can also discover God’s presence and welcome his development, his nurturing, and our re-birth.  [__fin__]

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