As we celebrate the Feast of The Holy Family there is much to reflect upon.
It is not that we have not heard it before, because we have. Like Father Butler will often remind us, we need to hear the Scripture over and over and over again. I am reminded of how we often need to be told or to tell someone how much we love them, over and over again. We may know it, but it is important to have the continuity and repetition.
As humans, we have “prettified” up the Nativity story really well. Father Lanese was speaking of this just the other day. When I look at so many pieces of art, which are beautiful and prayerful, without a doubt. (As you can see I use them to illustrate this blog very often!)
However, the reality of Bethlehem was probably different. A smiling, gurgling and wiggly baby in the straw, a beatific Mary and a beaming Joseph, several awestruck (but remarkably clean!) shepherds and a few very well behaved animals who focus on the babe. It sure looks good, but…
No it was likely a dark, dank and filthy space. While I have never had a child myself, I know many other women who did in the comfort and safety of a hospital and while happy, they might not have looked their glowy best so soon after the birth as Mary is presented to us. The shepherds, however adoring they might be were probably rank and disheveled from not only their work but from having left the fields to come find the baby. Joseph – I am thinking that despite his many dreams and reassurances that he might have felt a bit freaked out at the scene that lay out before him. And the animals. Now I am a city girl, so what do I know of them, but it is hard to imagine that they would just be standing there, still and with a steady gaze.
Poor, downtrodden, awestruck, overwhelmed. It is almost impossible to think of. Yet we must. It is in that poor, downtrodden, awestruck and overwhelmed place that God appears.
And God appears, comes to us in the form of this tiny, vulnerable baby. This God who becomes incarnational, who becomes flesh - like us. Now God being God could have chosen to come in as a baby or as anything! What did God choose? A baby! The smallest, the most vulnerable and the most needy. Think of this… God could have chosen to come in as the baby of the Romans. Or God could have chosen to come as the baby of the Pharisees.
However, God chooses the poor, the disenfranchised, those from the lower rungs. This is remarkable and it makes perfect sense. Would the Romans have accepted such a thing? Even if they did, they would manipulate it for their own purposes. Same with the Pharisees. Only those open and with nothing and as a result, with nothing to lose, say yes to this God as infant.
Mary in her fiat creates possibility that might not otherwise have happened. In her state of being she was not only able to say “yes”, but to be so open as to let this be about the glory of God. We hear that in the Magnificat very clearly. (As an aside, the dictators that ran Guatemala in the 80′s outlawed the public reading of the Magnificat because they believed it was too revolutionary in tone!)
So as we pray about and ponder the Holy Family today, may we remind ourselves of how God enters in through the smallest, the poorest, those on the fringes and not as those in power. May we find our own graces through our own poor, small and disenfranchised not only in our society, but more importantly – deeply within our own souls.
And that is why I will close with this image, from the present. It is the entry way to the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem. You will notice that the door is very, very small. It is that way on purpose and it is the only way in, you must bend down to go through and enter.
It is called the Door of Humility for a reason.