Advent Gospel Lectio Divina Prophetic voices Scripture Uncategorized

The God who works marvels

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

This Christmas Eve I’m reflecting on the Magnificat. Like Hannah before her Mary responds to her unexpected pregnancy with a song of rejoicing and praise. It’s full of strength, courage and certainty. It’s a song of triumph and confidence that comes from a deep knowledge and trust in God. Today I was touched by these lines:

“The almighty works marvels for me, Holy his name!”

It is tempting to assume that Mary sang them when her life was settled and secure and everything was going well. It’s easy to see God working marvels in our lives when everything is going smoothly.

But that’s not the situation Mary was in when she sang this song of triumph. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a messier scenario than the one she was facing.

Yet in that situation she was able to see God working marvels beyond her wildest dreams in her and through her. God works marvels of some sort, big or small, in all our lives, though sometimes it’s hard to discern them in the midst of challenges and uncertainties. In our own uncertain and messy times her words remind me that God is also with us in all that we face. As God worked marvels in the unlikely circumstances of Mary’s Life God can work marvels in our lives.

What marvels is God working in your life this Advent?

Advent Gospel Lectio Divina Prophetic voices Scripture Uncategorized

Joy, hope and promise.

Image by Anne Retter from Pixabay

The Visitation brings together the two women at the heart of the nativity. Elizabeth and Mary are bound together by family ties, unexpected pregnancies, faith in God’s promise and their openness to the life changing power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They are two excited women anticipating a new future together.

Mary, just setting out on life’s journey, turns to her older relative to share what has happened to her and her feelings about it. Elizabeth, wise with the experience of life, is able to offer support and insight from her own experience.

But, beautiful and encouraging as this female bonding is, the significance of their encounter goes far beyond that. Elizabeth, the child within her leaping for joy, recognises that she is in the presence of the mother of her Saviour. Filled with the Holy Spirit she is able to confirm the angel’s message to Mary proclaiming:

“Of all woman you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?”

Her words place her in the long line of prophets that stretches back through Israel’s history. Their role was to be open to the Spirit, to recognise the Lord’s presence and proclaim it to the people.

Both Elizabeth and Mary show us the necessity of being open to the Spirit, of allowing ourselves to listen attentively to God’s word. In our uncertain and challenging times the infectious joy of their encounter is a reminder that, even in these times, we can experience the joy of God’s promise being fulfilled in our lives.

Where are you being called to attentive listening this Advent?

Advent Gospel Lectio Divina Prophetic voices Scripture Uncategorized

A courageous response

Photo by Kate Williams on Unsplash

The annunciation is one of my favourite parts of Luke’s gospel. The encounter between the angel Gabriel and Mary is so full of mystery, poetry, awe and wonder that it can be difficult to know what to attend to first. Every word carries something of the story’s profound meaning and calls out for attention. Today I’m focusing on these words that the angel Gabriel used as he told Mary of Elizabeth’s pregnancy:

“For nothing is impossible to God.”

They are so familiar that we can easily skip over them. We assume that we know all they have to say to us. We rightly connect his words with the momentous announcements of Elizabeth’s and Mary’s pregnancies, but the angel’s words have meaning far beyond these miraculous occurrences. It’s not only in the Gospels that nothing is impossible to God, but in the messiness and uncertainty of our own lives.

Reflecting on the angel’s words the Jewish New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine writes:

“It is not impossible that God could call us, indeed has called us, no matter our place or family of birth, economic status or gender… It is not impossible that we can respond as Mary did, ‘here I am’”

The power of the annunciation lies not just in the retelling of the miraculous intervention of God in our history, but in pointing us towards the miraculous intervention of God that is possible in our lives today.

God calls each one of us and waits for us to respond, as Mary did with our whole being. Filled with the Holy Spirit, and inspired by Mary, we can also respond to God’s call with a yes that is capable of transforming our lives and our world.

How does Mary’s encounter with the angel inspire you to respond to God’s call in your life?

Advent Gospel Lectio Divina Prophetic voices Saints Scripture Uncategorized

Finding the way home.

Photo by NaraJiva on Unsplash

I’m always struck by the comment people made at the birth of John the Baptist:

“What will this child turn out to be?”

It’s a perfectly natural response in the circumstances. It expresses some of the hope of a people who have been waiting for God’s coming for generations. Such specialness can be both a gift and a burden. Its burden will eventually lead him to death and its gift prompts Jesus to tell us that:

“Of all those born of woman none is greater than John the Baptist.”

Filled by the spirit John is called like Elijah, as the prophet Malachi tells us, to turn the people back towards the God from whom they have strayed. He is to call them, and us, to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. It is a call to action. It’s a call to stop and to realise that we have turned away from the way of the Lord.

He tells us that we need to notice how far we have strayed and to discover how to get back on the right track. It’s a personal call to contrition, to the inner journey of returning to God’s presence with our whole heart and soul. It’s also a call to concrete action that will change our lives. It requires us to change our behaviour, to repair and rebuild relationships, to forgive others and allow them to forgive us, to build new and stronger communities where everyone is welcomed as a child of God.

How is John’s message turning you back to God this Advent?