Blessed are the Poor in Spirit – Pastor’s Reflection (December 17, 2017)
Today the Liturgy begins to tell us the Christmas story. Familiar figures step off the Sacred Page like cherished ornaments emerging from their boxes to brighten Christmas Present with a glint of Christmas Past. Joseph and Mary have their perennial encounters with Angels, the same heavenly messengers upend the old age of Elizabeth and Zachariah, and they happily feel the prophetic kick of the little Baptist, saluting the little Messiah, womb to womb. Of course next Monday we will all give homage to the same Infant Lord, when he shows up promptly on the page and in the manger. In his wake will come the familiar retinue of shepherds, angels, and wise men.
Did you ever notice that Scripture gives most of these characters no words to say? But at the moment of the Annunciation Mary speaks for all of them in her famous “Let it be done to me.” Like her, the bright figures of Christmas consent to let life happen to them in God’s world, according to His plan, in His time. Further, their consent is not grudging or fearful. Being part of a design fulfills them completely. They understand themselves to be small people loved by their Lord into a place in His plan. From their acceptance of this comes the real serenity of Christmas.
Christmas has worn many beautiful costumes over the centuries. Each year we haul out the whole collection and delight in the music and poetry, the painting and sculpting that these stories have inspired. Beneath these pretty polychrome surfaces lie the compelling truth of poverty of spirit. The beauty of the Virgin and Child, and of those with whom they share the crèche, lies in their complete freedom from self-consciousness and self-absorption.
I think if we take a moment to reflect on the people who have genuinely attracted us, they possess just this quality. What a marvelous paradox that we delight in giving our attention to those who have no need to demand it. They do not crave attention because they are fully attentive. People who have real focus on God as their beginning and end, have lots of room for their neighbors because they need so little for themselves. Like Mary and Joseph, their stable is always open to the shepherds and magi who may be sent their way.
This perception of Christmas gets its authority from the lives of Jesus and Mary. From the beginning to the end of their earthly walk they do not show off or dominate, but always present themselves as happy servants of the Living Truth. They invite you and me to put down the burden of ourselves and live in their freedom.
All through this week at Mass this story unfolds for us. What a perfect time to discover in these iconic passages the self-forgetting that is self-finding, and that self-surrender which is self-fulfillment.