Two words about Mary from the Bible describe most of our lives in December: “in haste.”
We run in haste to the mall, post office and grocery store. In haste, we rush to office parties and pageants.We pack the bags and the car, or race to get the house clean and ready.
There are only 24 days in the month to fit everything in, soall must be done with haste. While the month of December has moments of joy, for many, words like “stressed” and “overwhelmed” more adequately describe the norm.
But if there were ever a woman who had an excuse for feeling overwhelmed and needing to be “in haste” in the days leading up to Christ’s birth, it would be Mary.
Think about all she had on her shoulders. The angel Gabriel just announced that she’s having a baby. That alone would be big news! But Gabriel goes on to tell her that this baby will be not any ordinary child, but the Prophesied One — Israel’s long-awaited Messiah-King. And that’s not all: Mary will conceive this child not by natural means, but as a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit. There’s never been a conception like that before! Her child will be the holy Son of God.
That’s a lot to take in from one short conversation with an angel. It’s fair to say Mary has a lot going on in her life in the days leading up to Christ’s birth. Even if she were living by today’s standards, everyone would have understood if she didn’t get Christmas cards out that year or if her house were not spotlessly clean or the gifts arrived late in the mail.
Still, Luke’s account of the Visitation reveals that, even with all she’s now responsible for, Mary doesn’t turn in on herself. She remains focused on God and on other people in the midst of the sudden turn of events in her life.
After hearing the angel’s astounding message, Mary goes “inhaste” to the hill country of Judea to serve her elder kinswoman Elizabeth during her pregnancy with John the Baptist and to share in the joy over all that God is about to accomplish in Israel (Luke 1:39).
I know when I have much to do I’m not always like Mary. I can be tempted to close in on myself — focusing on my projects, my problems, my concerns — and not be as attentive to those around me. But Mary was not like that. Luke informs us that right after receiving this message, Mary goes “in haste” to serve Elizabeth.
This particular phrase can be translated as “with thoughtfulness” or “with eagerness,” which may get more to the heart of the matter. She’s eager to help Elizabeth; eager to be with her cousin. She does not allow herself to be so “busy” and “overwhelmed” that she misses out on what matters most: the people in her life and her relationship with God.
What Matters Most
A young girl woke up on Christmas Eve excited to come downstairs and share this special day with her mom. Only one more dayt ill Christmas! But Mom was in a flurry of activity, cleaning, cooking, baking and wrapping.
Relatives were coming to town for the annual Christmas Eve dinner, and there was a lot of pressure to have everything just right. There was no time that morning to play with her daughter, read stories and make the Christmas cookies as she had hoped.
“Maybe this afternoon after I get everything ready,” the mom told her daughter. But the day quickly passed, and Mom was still too overwhelmed. Each time the child asked for some attention, the mom increasingly got frustrated. “Things aren’t ready yet — you’ll just have to wait!” she said with a stressed-out tone of annoyance.
But when snow started falling and she noticed her daughter staring out the window with tears in her eyes, the mom stopped what she was doing.
She took off her apron, put on her coat and boots and spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the snow with her daughter.
When the guests showed up two hours later, things were not as prepared as she had hoped. She never got to that second dessert she was hoping to make. And there were several rooms left unvacuumed. She didn’t have time to set out the nice china, and some of the last-minute presents had to be placed into gift bags instead of being wrapped. It was not a failure for a Christmas Eve dinner, but it certainly was far from her best performance. She only got a “B-minus” on her hosting that night, in her estimation. But in the end, she got an “A” on what matters most — spending time with her child.
This Advent season, we all will run “in haste.” But the crucial question God is asking us is this: Will we run in haste after what matters most?
Will we run in haste to truly encounter the people in our lives? To make time to talk to them? To take time to listen to them?
Will we run in haste to the chapel, to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? Will we run in haste to Mass? Will we run in haste to make sure we have quiet time each day for prayer — to be like Mary, keeping and pondering the mystery of the Advent season in our hearts?
Edward Sri is a theologian, author and speaker.
His newest book is Rethinking Mary in the New Testament (Ignatius Press).
More about his work can be found at EdwardSri.com.
Published by National Catholic Register Dec. 2018
For the past two years, I have been working a job that has required a daily commute of roughly two hours, more or less. Over time, it has slowly worn on me, not to mention my cars. It not only has had its effects on me, but my wife and my son also feel the impact of my long absence.
I’ve written and lamented in the past on how crucial it is for fathers to be home with their families as much as they can, and I very much still stand in that favor of that position. The absence of the father in a home can be very noticeable if we just observe.
On days when I’m able to show up at home immediately following a day’s work and I get to interact with my wife and son, the family feels more stable and the evening has a better flow to it. If I come home but I don’t interact with them, I find the tension gets high, and so do frustration levels (understandably so).
Most noticeably is the change in my son’s behavior when I can get home and just playwith my little guy. When I’m able to come home and get straight to playing, wrestling, rough-housing, or what have you, the evenings always go much smoother, my son is better behaved, and my wife is much happier and at ease and can relax a little.
In my own family, we have recognized how essential it is for me to get home and give my son my undivided attention and simply play with him. The difference in his behavior is night and day when I get to spend uninterrupted time with him versus when I don’t. Because of the noticeable difference and the desired result of a smoother evening, we’ve put rules in place where I put phones away and remove any other distractions for at least the first 30 minutes (or more) of my time in the evening and I focus entirely on my little boy. He has waited all day to see his ol’ man. I’ve had to wait too.
When we take these measures as fathers to give of ourselves entirely to our wives and children and set aside things that call our attention, I find that we live lighter and more freely. By engaging in selfless play with our kiddos, we show them the love of the Father and give them the confidence and assurance they need that they are deeply a part of us, and that we love them in a way they cannot fully understand.
This, I believe, will dramatically affect the way they relate to our Heavenly Father. We dads here on earth have an opportunity to help our children engage in receiving the love of our Father. Many times, I have met Christians who speak incredibly highly of their fathers and how impactful that relationship was to receive the Divine Love. I have also heard the reverse, of how a poor relationship with a father (or lack thereof) has led to an abandonment of the Lord. What a beautiful opportunity for us, but also, how intimidating!
Playing with your child is a gift. Play is done not as a means but as an end unto itself; it’s done for the sake of itself. Playing with our children reminds us to let go and enjoy the gifts that the Lord has given us, namely our children. To hear the laughter of your child as you play-tackle him to the ground, is one of the finest treasures in our lives as fathers.
SUBSCRIBE TO CE
I have just finished reading the book, “How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard University” (Ignatius Press) which was written to help students remain active and grow in their faith while away at college. It is an excellent book and an easy read but more compelling was that it was a book for all people who want to maintain and grow in faith. All practicing Catholics of all ages should read this book to see how they can continue to grow and learn about their faith throughout their lives.
The following is the Description from Ignatius’ Press website:
A Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar, and devout Catholic tells you everything you need to know about keeping your faith at a modern university. Drawing on her recent experience, Aurora Griffin shares forty practical tips relating to academics, community, prayer, and service that helped her stay Catholic in college.
She reminds us that keeping the faith is a conscious decision, reinforced by commitment to daily practices. Aurora’s story illustrates that when you decide your faith matters to you, no one can take it away, even in the most secular environments and under strong peer pressure. Throughout the book, she shows how being Catholic in college did not prevent her from having a full “college experience,” but actually enabled her to make the most of her time at Harvard.
Aurora encourages students who are about to begin this formative journey, or those now in college, that the most valuable parts of college life — lasting friendships, intellectual growth, and cherished memories — are experienced in a more meaningful way when lived in and through the Catholic faith.
This year’s Conference is geared to build Christian camaraderie among the men who attend in order that they become more faithful fathers, husbands, brothers, sons and disciples. This is accomplished through presentations and seminars, opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and for Eucharistic Adoration, and a closing celebration of the Eucharist with clergy from throughout Connecticut. All are invited! Visit: https://ctcatholicmen.org/detailed-overview.
Meditation: Luke 6:27-38
Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
One of the reasons Jesus’ teaching on mercy is so challenging is that we face many opportunities to practice it each day. Like many other challenges, our best defense is a good offense. We are better able to rise to these challenges if we prepare ourselves for them in advance. So what can we do? What attitudes come before mercy?
First there’s love. When Jesus commands us to be merciful, he is essentially telling us to follow the way of love. Love doesn’t seek retribution or “brood over injury”
(1 Corinthians 13:5). That’s why Jesus tells his followers to “bless those who curse you” and “pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). So out of love, when a family member says something hurtful, try to hold your tongue instead of lashing out. When someone cuts you off while you’re driving, pray for that person instead of reacting with anger.
There’s also understanding. Pope Francis has said that we are all “a complex mixture of light and shadows” (The Joy of Love, 113). So before you take offense or respond in a negative way, ask yourself, “What might be causing this person to act in this way?” If you step back and take the time to understand a person and the complicated factors that might lead people to do what they do, you may find it easier to be compassionate and thus merciful.
Third, there’s self-awareness. You too are a mixture of “light and shadows.” Yet it’s so very easy to see the plank in a brother’s or sister’s eye but fail to see the beam in your own (Matthew 7:3). When you regularly examine your heart, you are constantly reminded of your own weaknesses. As you become more alert to your own need for God’s compassion and forbearance, it becomes easier to forgive other people and show them mercy.
Because we are a work in progress, we will probably always struggle with the call to be merciful. But how blessed we are that God is merciful to us! As we do our part to prepare our hearts, he will pour out his grace upon us day by day. May we become his face of mercy to all we encounter each day!
“Jesus, grant me the grace this day to show mercy, just as your Father has shown me mercy.”
The Word Among Us
Word Among Us is an excellent Catholic publication that I read everyday. This one struck me today.