I’m not sure if you get to read the CCC weekly posting “The Spirit of the Time” in addition to the St Brigids Community Life weekly emails? This week Helen writes this:

“I’ve often wondered if one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith, isn’t that Jesus was a perfect human being, but that God wasn’t perfect — wasn’t fully aware of God’s self — until God became flesh and experienced the fullness of the human journey”[1].

Of course, she’s inviting us to test her hypothesis about this mystery…that God wasn’t perfect — wasn’t fully aware of God’s self — until the Incarnation – God became flesh and experienced the fullness of the human journey.  So, she also describes perfection – according to the mothers and fathers of the Christian church- seen as: “as becoming more aware of who God created you to be (warts and all) and loving the people around you into becoming more aware of who God created them to be. God isn’t afraid or turned off by imperfection, by our struggle to embrace and understand our humanity or the humanity of the people we love[2] .

I guess we just pondered these words, it would be enough to focus on todays feast day of Mary, mother of our Lord, but we also need to involve ourselves, so lets see how we learn from incarnation.

There’s an ancient story about the incarnation:

“God, as everyone knows, created the heavens and the earth and everything in them…Jesus!”[3]

When we think that God – all of God – the whole God, what Christians know as Trinity, might only be complete when God speaks the incarnation – speaks the Word into Being – I imagine that could upset people who keep Jesus locked in the pages of the bible.

But what do we do with theories, or mysteries, or in fact any complexities which seem too big for our minds to understand? A common solution for many people, is to try to reduce the complexity by finding answers “out there”– which might be:

  1.  in my preferred reference sources – like only one TV program… or
  2.  Like for many Christians, using the bible as a literal question and answer-book.

But when I try to find the answers to complex issues only outside of myself, I risk providing one-dimensional solutions to multi-dimensional issues. I need to look inside myself, wrestle with the difficulties, which might mean arguing with God, keeping quiet for long enough to listen to God and others, perhaps study and look where it is uncomfortable!  The mysteries of God are multi-dimensional issues, which don’t have single answers, and don’t offer dualistic solutions.

It seems that God’s answer to the complexities which human’s get up to, and don’t seem to learn much from, is Incarnation. “I go and live with them, pitch my tent among them (word made flesh and dwelt among them means literally), feel it, do it, enjoy it, agonize it, suffer it – with them”.

When I think of the reason why the church sets aside special days for honoring holy people in its calendar, it is because (to pick up Helen’s point) they became more aware of who God created them to be through their joy of knowing God, suffering for their faith, standing up for truth, realizing what they couldn’t see at the beginning of the journey, and, loving the people around them into becoming more aware of who God created those people to be. And soI benefit through the example of the saints and mystics (some who are still alive), through meditating on their story.

Mary, demonstrates this kind of awareness as she contemplates Jesus born into the world, and the hymn that she sings – called the magnificat – holds some of her response, even though it seems that she proclaims these words right near the beginning of her pregnancy when she meets Elizabeth. Can she know all of what she will experience being pregnant with Jesus, or the birth, or the effort of bringing him up, watching him, and watching the mystery of who he is unfold? Of course not! She was a young girl.

But of course, this gospel story is only written at the end of the 1st century, so the writer has the benefit of observing Mary at the time, through it, and after it all. There is prophetic message in her proclamation – God’s actions from time of old[4] – God is also doing something new – turning the world upside down through this incarnation.

But Mary, is really the teacher of the mystery. She was present to it step-by-step. Feeling him move in the womb, giving birth to him, feeding him, observing him as he grew up, and seeing his divinity revealed as it happened, and his trial, suffering and death, and rising and ascension. This is an incarnational relationship, and what she gives to us is her pondering observing, responding, (some written, some imagined, and gained only through my pondering her story….).

It is like the stories we’ve heard from mothers and grandmothers of refugees – Libya to the continent, and southern states to the USA. Just like the stories of Indigenous mothers in the past generation watching their children and grandchildren suffer as they are removed from home to school, and their language removed, and their suffering, and the death of some. This is how we get in touch with gospel mystery, and open ourselves to learn through it and be changed by it – which is God changing us.

So, certainly there is a personal response to Jesus through baptism, or through my “yes”, or how ever you understand being born again into Jesus, but then there is being born again, and again and again, and these re-births come through pondering the mystery’s/complexities of the gospels myself, and through the experience of holy people who’s stories we ponder.

[1] Helen Dunn, The Spirit of the Time, (CCC. August 16, 2019).

[2] Ibid

[3] William Bausch, Storytelling. Imagination and Faith. (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1984),115

[4] Hannah’s poem in 1 Sam 2, it has what is called CONTINUITY, –, God taking the part of the poor, lonely and oppressed, and mercy shown from generation to generation) so God is working in the ways God has always worked. But there is also DISCONTINUITY. God is also doing something new. Luke is also challenging the reasonably wealthy to realize they have to make a difference in society – because they can.