Readings (Year A):
Reflection: Rejoice and be glad
Rejoice and be glad. This may be the most counter-cultural message in existence in 2022. And I am going to be a little grinchy by insisting the invitation on this Sunday is meant to perplex us a bit.
God invites joy to overflow in us. Some would say it is naive to rejoice when we look at the state of our world. How can we be glad when we look at the nitty gritty of our death-oriented culture: gun violence, polarization, covid, ignorance, racism, climate change, wars, poverty, divided families, addiction, abuses, mass incarceration and the list goes on. Do not misunderstand this invitation as an excuse to place our heads in the sand, pretending there is nothing we can do to aid our world’s healing. For our action and inaction either despoil or energize our connections to each other.
The Magnificat exults: “My soul proclaims your greatness, O God, and my spirit rejoices in you my Savior…you have deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places” (Luke 1:46, 52, The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation).
“Mary’s song is good news for the poor and bad news for the powerful,” preacher and writer Ashley Wilcox declares in The Women’s Lectionary. “The God who Mary knows turns the expectations of the world upside down. This is not something that will happen at some future date. Mary says that God has already done this…These are not nice and gentle words. Mary prophetically announces social, political, and economic upheaval and a complete reversal of the power structure.”
Even in her youthful state the mother of Jesus fiercely proclaims her joy-filled and prophetic song, rooted in ancient wisdom. We are invited to remember this root and to radiate joy and sing her song with her, recalling God’s faithfulness.
“Go and report to John what you hear and see: those who are blind recover their sight; those who cannot walk are able to walk; those with leprosy are cured; those who are deaf hear; the dead are raised to life; and the anawim—the “have-nots”—have the
Good News preached to them,” Jesus tells John’s disciples.
What word from Jesus do we seek individually or as a people today? Who are the poor in our midst who have lost hope? Can we locate ourselves in the world’s systems and power structures?
At this point in the Advent season, we must be intentional about listening for the ancient wisdom we are invited to glean. The hustle and bustle of our culture at Christmas is noisy, busy, and demanding. People of ripened faith recognize Advent as the more fruitful and joyous time, a faith born through struggle, giving birth to God’s abundant life.
Isaiah’s words invite us to a fullness foreign to our understanding:
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
Teilhard de Chardin famously proclaimed: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, [humanity] will have discovered fire.”
Today God graces each of us to overflow with joy, open to hope, live in love. The invitation is to stay a little longer with the prayers and the pruning so when the time is ripe, like Mary, we too will be radiant with joy.