4th Sunday in Advent- Homily
Why didn’t God protect Mary?
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University and writes weekly reflections on the Sunday Scriptures under “Glancing Thoughts” at the University of St. Louis “Spiritual Reflections on Sunday’s Readings” web site. She asks – Why didn’t God protect Mary from the shame and the suffering and the fear and the embarrassment of being an unmarried pregnant woman?
There are consequences to stepping up to the plate. To take the Lord seriously – to take the Gospel seriously – is not to be given immunity from the human condition. Faith does not offer a life free of pain. In fact, if you take the gospel seriously, you will probably have more pain in your life because you will be the type of person who walks into a painful situation.
People who have been through, and came through rough times understand and empathize with others who are going through rough time.
Dr. Brené Brown is an American scholar, author, and public speaker, who is currently a research professor at the University of Houston. She has written books such as The Gifts of Imperfection (2010) and Daring Greatly (2012). She has been featured on PBS, NPR and CNN. She is an ideologist who studies ideas on the difference between EMPATHY and SYMPATHY.
SYMPATHY is acknowledging another person’s emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance to them.
EMPATHY is understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself. So it’s not a case of trying to put yourself in their shoes, you’ve already been in those shoes before. You know exactly how it feels.
When someone is in a deep hole and they shout out from the bottom, “Hey, I’m stuck, it’s dark and I’m overwhelmed.” Empathy is when someone climbs down and says “I know what it’s like down here. I’ve been here before too. You are not alone.”
It is yet another step to go to compassion. Compassion comes from the Latin “cum passio” which means to “suffer with” someone. If we look at the example of the person in the dark hole compassion is when we are able to say “You are not alone. I am here with you also.” Dr. Brown says that this is so much more than simply responding to a person’s situation. Response can never make something better. What is needed is a connection and a relationship.
So, let’s go back to our original question, Why didn’t God protect Mary? Mary’s steadfastness and trust in God even in the midst of the trouble of being an unmarried pregnant woman are a type of school for her. She, and probably St. Joseph for that matter, was probably one of the most empathetic and compassionate people ever. She understood hardship and loss and tragedy and disappointment and shame and being worried and overwhelmed. She had been there.
THIS is the significance of why our Savior’s name is Emmanuel, a name which means God-is-with-us. Faith does not offer a life free of pain. What God does promise is to be WITH US in that pain. This is why when you hear other people say, “Oh all religions are pretty much the same” it’s such a false statement. There is the HUGH difference between Christianity and other world religions. Other faiths and philosophies would either have you escaped from the world or have you reach up into higher realms towards deity. Our God climbs down the hole into the darkness to be with us in the midst of that pain and that suffering.
One of the significant aspects of Christmas is the very poignant realization that the reason this baby was born was to eventually die.
This is certainly a joyful season. It can also be a very difficult and challenging season. Many people have or are experiencing sadness, difficulties, challenges and tragedy in the midst of Christmas. The good news that Mary gives us today is to point to her son Emmanuel, God who is with us. To say He knows. He understands. He’s here with you. Do whatever He tells you.