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Friday, December 11, 2009

“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’” (Luke 1:41-42)

“SOUL-SURFING” – December 20, 2009
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Luke 1:39-45
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

The joyous meeting of two expectant cousins: it’s the event recounted in the gospel passage we hear on this Fourth Sunday of Advent. Both Mary and Elizabeth revel in impending motherhood while the unborn children within, Jesus and John the Baptist, seem to greet each other. Yet, more even than joyous, these pregnancies are miraculous, Mary conceiving while still a virgin, Elizabeth about to give birth in her old age. It’s clear to both women that they’ve been especially touched by the hand of God. While it was the younger, Mary, who traveled to visit her elderly cousin, it was the older who first spoke. As the gospel relates, “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’” (Luke 1:41-42)

Today we are invited to look to the figurative fruit of our own womb. Parents are invited to look at their progeny; others of us are invited to look at young lives we’ve mentored. And the question is put to us all: can we see the image of the incarnate Jesus in what we have borne? Can we see Jesus come to flesh in the fruit of our womb? In considering this very question, a young woman authored a Christmas reflection which I share with you:

“My husband and I had been happily married for five years but hadn't been blessed with a baby. I decided to do some serious praying and promised God that, if he would give us a child, I would be a perfect mother, love it with all my heart and raise it with His Word as my guide. God answered my prayers and blessed us with a son. The next year God blessed us with another son. The following year, he blessed us with yet another son. The year after that we were blessed with a daughter. My husband thought we'd been blessed right into poverty.

“We now had four children, and the oldest was only four years old. I learned never to ask God for anything unless I meant it. As a minister once told me, ‘If you pray for rain, make sure you carry an umbrella.’ I began reading a few verses of the bible to the children each day as they lay in their cribs. I was off to a good start. God had entrusted me with four children, and I didn't want to disappoint.

“I tried to be patient the day the children smashed two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor searching for baby chicks. I tried to be understanding when they started a hotel for homeless frogs in the spare bedroom, although it took me nearly two hours to catch all twenty-three frogs. When my daughter poured ketchup all over herself and rolled up in a blanket to see how it felt to be a hot dog, I tried to see the humor rather than the mess. In spite of changing over twenty-five thousand diapers, never eating a hot meal and never sleeping for more than thirty minutes at a time, I still thank God daily for my children.

“While I couldn't keep my promise to be a perfect mother, I didn't even come close. But I did keep my promise to raise them with His Word. I knew I was missing the mark just a little when I told my daughter we were going to church to worship, and she wanted to bring a bar of soap along to ‘wash up’ Jesus, too. Something was lost in the translation when I explained that God gave us everlasting life, and my son thought it was generous of God to give us his ‘last wife.’

“My proudest moment came during the children's Christmas pageant. My daughter was playing Mary, two of my sons were shepherds and my youngest son was a wise man. This was their moment to shine. My five-year-old shepherd had practiced his line, ‘We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.’ But he was nervous and said, ‘The baby was wrapped in wrinkled clothes.’ My four-year-old ‘Mary’ said, ‘That's not 'wrinkled clothes, silly. That's dirty, rotten clothes.’

“A wrestling match broke out between Mary and the shepherd, which was stopped by an angel, who bent her halo and lost her left wing. I slouched a little lower in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, and it bounced down the aisle crying, ‘Mama-mama.’ Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up and held it tightly as the wise men arrived.

“My other son stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown, knelt at the manger and announced, ‘We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of gold, common sense and fur.’

“The congregation dissolved into laughter, and the pageant got a standing ovation. ‘I've never enjoyed a Christmas program as much as this one,’ laughed the pastor, wiping tears from his eyes. ‘For the rest of my life, I'll never hear the Christmas story without thinking of gold, common sense and fur.’

“‘My children are my pride and my joy and my greatest blessing,’ I said as I dug through my purse for an aspirin.” (Original source unknown)

Indeed, this is the season of joyous meetings: Christmas parties, gifts and cards all reflect our desire for warm human connection. This is also the season for reflecting on the figurative fruit of our womb, those young lives given to our care. This is the season to give great thanks that God’s coming among us continues to be miraculous: if virgin can conceive and an old woman give birth, what amazing possibility lies in store for each one of us!


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