21 December 2009 Misa de Gallo
Song of Songs 2, 8-14, Psalm 33; Luke 1, 39-45
When we pray the Hail Mary, we mumble the words without wondering about what it truly means. Upon Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth praises her blessedness: “Blessed are you, among women!” But her blessedness is a paradox: To her was given the responsibility of rearing the very Son of God. Her pregnancy of this Son of God is a source of great joy and excitement! And yet, her heart will also be pierced by the sword of sorrow. In the end, her very source of joy will be crucified on the cross, like one of the worst criminals.
To be chosen by God so often means that it is at one hand, a privilege and a source of joy; but on the other hand, a cross of sorrow. The truth is that when God chooses us, He does not promise us comfort and ease in our life; but requires all of ourselves: our minds, our hearts and our bare hands. God chooses a person in order that He may be used as instruments. St. John of Arc, knowing that she will not last for a year, prayed, “I shall not last for a year, use me.” There is a religious tenet that is traditionally attributed to Teresa of Avila: when you suffer, it means that God loves you. It does not make any sense: usually we protect someone we love from being hurt, but it seems that God loves his beloved children to suffer more. And the greatest is Christ’s fate --- He allowed His Son to suffer on the cross until death!
Second, take other examples: We know of Manoah and his wife. In their old age, was granted a son, whom we know as Samson. Samson was a herculean figure; granted by God with great strength than ordinary men. He would wrestle with a lion, wipe out an army with a jawbone and eventually destroying a temple. However, Samson was not just a miracle, he was missioned to deliver Israel from the Philistines. He falls in love with Delilah who betrays him by revealing to the Philistines the secret of his strength. When his locks were shaved, the Philistines blinded him and he was treated like a slave. Eventually, his locks grew, gained strength, and killed many Philistines when he destroyed the temple, which also claimed his life.
Elizabeth and Zechariah: John was named “God’s graciousness” because John was God’s gift to them despite their age. They have rejoiced in the Lord for John’s coming to their lives. And yet, in the end, John would leave them and live in the desert. Eventually, John will be beheaded, not out of justice, but out of the whim of a dancer.
And yet, the blessedness of a person often lies in the very struggle that she or he has. It is one and at the same time, the greatest joy and the greatest sorrow. In other words, we grow when we choose. And many choices are not pleasureable especially when we are to choose between two or more things we like. When we live in this tension, the development that comes out of it is that which makes us holier and better. But that’s the way it is: Jesus came to us, not to make life easy or to remove our problems and sorrows, but to make people great! Greatness is tested in adversity and in pain. Who survives the fire becomes the purest gold!
The first reading from the Song of songs tells us that the lover rejoices and yearns to see the beloved. What we are in love with will decide everything.
Fr. Pedro Arrupe SJ, former General of the Jesuits, said, “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, what you know that breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”