Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Mount St. Mary's University
(12/19/08) Today, friends, our focus is on "coming to the point." There is a point at the center of each one of us, a point at the center of every human being, a point where we do not lose ourselves in illusions or make-believe, a point untouched by our thinking and our willing.
Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and one of the outstanding spiritual writers of our age, refers to this "virginal point" as a point of pure truth which belongs entirely to God. Merton writes: "This little point of absolute poverty (within each of us) is the pure glory of God in us." May you and I, dear
friends, be graced to reach this point.
In what is rightly be called "the most beautiful story ever written", The Gospel according to Luke, the young teenager, Miriam of Nazareth, does not become troubled and fearful and doubtfully ask the angelic messenger: "How can I know this?" She did not even seek knowledge or
information. Rather she meditates on the Word of the Lord and holds it in her heart. Her question: "How can this be?" was simple and profound. It was more a cry of amazement. In no way was it a request for a print-out, a script of what the future would hold for her. The Lord Adonai had made a loving entrance
into her life and she did not avoid him.
Mary had reached that central point, that virginal point where she could simply trust God without completely understanding; a point where she could deeply accept or believe God's word without trying to be in control of her life.
Kathleen Norris, a great spiritual writers of our present age, points out in her book, Amazing Grace, that Mary is not an ideal of passive, submissive femininity. Mary was more a strong, peasant woman and not a teenage beauty queen, forever eighteen. . . and perfectly manicured.
(Norris, 118) After all, she took a 70 mile hike through the hill country of Judea to assist her pregnant kinswoman, Elizabeth. She must have been a strong, robust woman, ageless in grace - a woman who, in later years, expressed serenity even in the death of her dying son, her face filled with love and pity.
Mary pondered God's promise in her heart even when, as Simeon foretold, that same promise would pierce her soul like a sword.
Mary witnesses that same love and pity for her children, you and me and all people. Recently we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalulpe-it was almost four hundred years ago that she left her image on the tilma or cloak of Juan Diego. That image is that of a person of mixed
race-a union of the native Aztec and the Spanish invader. (Norris, 120). We do well to remember that mixed-racial image as we respond to the challenges of social justice and reach out to welcome the immigrants of different races to make their home with us.
Mary's "yes" to God prompts each of us to ask ourselves-"When God makes a loving invitation in or lives, do we try to sidestep him? Do we want a full print-out before we go along? Or perhaps, have you and I reached that "virginal point", that point of pure truth in our lives - where
we can simply believe and not try to be in control? Where you and I can utter a "Yes" that will change us forever?
We need to make spaces in our lives for God to be born into our world, but only a few have the radical belief to do so. Yet we can still prayerfully respond to grace and welcome him. We can open a space within us where he can be born in us. Through our praying and hoping we can make
room for Christ. In pungency and truth Dorothy Day writes:
"There is no use in saying that we've been born 2,000 years too late to welcome Christ. On the contrary, it is with the voices of our contemporaries that he speaks. With the eyes of store clerks and children, he looks at us. With the hands of slum dwellers and suburban housewives, he
reaches out. He walks with the feet of the soldier and the tramp. With the heart of all in need he longs for us to shelter him. And, the giving of shelter or food or welcome to anyone who asks or needs it, is giving to Christ and making room for his holiness to dwell within."
All too often we fail to recognize Jesus in the many disguises in which he comes to us. That masterful poet of the Victorian Age, the Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins write
. . . Christ plays in ten thousand places / Lovely in limbs. And lovely in eyes not his/ To the Father through the features of men's faces."
Jesus does show his face to us--- the face of God-in many different disguises. Advent is the time to renew our commitment to our daily search to seek his face.
It is indeed healthy for you and me in our prayer life to ask for the grace to recognize Jesus in the various disguises in which he comes into our lives
Despite our ever increasing knowledge and love of him, we need constantly allow him to grow beyond our understanding of him. He came to be one of us, flesh of our flesh, that he might be with us and for us.-not simply to be a formula that we pray, a creed that we recite. "He became
all that we are --that we might experience him somewhat as we experience the person dearest to us in all the world-to experience him with understanding and passion, with laughter and tears, with anxiety when he seems far from us, with delight when he shows his face again." (Walter Burghardt)
If this is our awareness of who Jesus is to you and me, then, I suggest that you and I can joyfully admit that we have fallen in love with him.
I think that the experience of falling in love is essential for every human to fall in love. May we make our own the superb advice of Father Pedro Arrupe, who serve as the world-superior of the Jesuits:
"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is than falling in love in a quite absolute final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your weekends,
what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude."
It is in falling in love with Jesus "in a quite absolute final way" that we have come to the point, the central point of our lives. . . . and then can simply soar.
Read other homilies by Father Paul