Monday, December 24, 2012

Humility: A small thing? (Advent Reflection)

Note: This was written about a week back and concerns this Sunday's readings (12/23/2012, Link to readings). This is a short reflection I offer you as we come to the close of Advent.

My family is getting to that point where the next generation are having their first and second children. Now when we gather for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other events they come in, give everyone their obligatory hug, and proceed to pull out every single toy in the basement, play with it for an average of 5 seconds, and move onto something else. Nevertheless we all look on, either smiling at what they do or chasing them so they don't hurt themselves by falling down a flight of stairs. Scripture, in a manner of speaking, doesn't surprise me when it says that small and insignificant-looking things can and will produce a large and pervasive effect.

This can only happen, I suppose, when we come to appreciate something small as God's most powerful tool. Mary's sister Elizabeth certainly seemed to appreciate it. When Mary, a young lady of probably 15 or 16 years of age entered her house and greeted her she felt her own son, John, leap in her womb. Mary's greeting and the reaction of her unborn son prompted her to say “blessed are you among women” and “how is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” What Elizabeth knew in faith is not unlike what we know in love from looking at a little child. A relationship with our Savior is obviously different than watching a child play, but both fill us with words inexpressible. All we can do is look on with wonder and gratitude.

Indeed, we hear often among others who speak to the mother of a little child, “What a beautiful child, you're so lucky.” Perhaps it's not so different in tone next to 'blessed are you among women.'

The meeting between Mary and Elizabeth was also a meeting of the unborn Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. In the wombs of two women meeting in private rested the herald of a new age and the King of all ages. In the quiet privacy of a Jewish woman's home was a new era. Elizabeth, recognizing this silent revolution, rejoices. The author of Hebrews captures this feeling: he recounts that “in burnt offerings and sacrifice you did not desire” (cf. Heb 5:5-10) but rather God delighted in those who did his will.

No flashy work can produce the same fruit as a humble submission to God's will. The strange thing is that this very submission makes something even more wonderful then the spectacle a public sacrifice in the temple might have been. Mary is praised with such fantastic words because she believed “that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” She is not praised because she has worked some magnificent sign, but she is praised because she heard the voice of God, believed it, and acted on it with a simple 'yes.' This simple and private 'yes' changed her whole life, indeed it changed all of our lives.

This humility and trust produces, as it were, a light to the whole world. The feeling is not unlike that child who captures everyone's attention at a family party. Perhaps our own faith should be regarded as a little child—it is small and innocent and, when we look upon it, we regard it with infinite wonder and gratitude, seeking what's best for it because we realize the profound impact it really has on us and those around us.