Is Your God Wretched, Weird or Wonderful? Homily – 4th Sunday of Advent
Is your God wretched, weird or wonderful ?
I was listening to Bishop Barron’s thoughts on the movie, Miracles From Heaven “How do we explain the impossible?” The movie covers the story of Christine and Kevin Beam and their daughter Annabel. You can listen to his insights on the movie and how he theologically ties it into the Catholic faith below. He describes the move in the beginning of the clip up to about the 4:15 mark. Starting at 4:25 he begins to discuss his insights on how the movie addresses the topic of suffering.
As Bishop Barron says, “The film doesn’t give answers. It leaves a lot of questions.” The Latin word, mirare can be translated “To be amazed at.” Also “to gaze, to contemplate, to ponder, to stare.” From mirare we get the word “miracle.” the move is about miracles that occur – and miracles that do not happen. It’s about prayers that are answered, and prayers that are not. It’s about one child miraculously being healed and another dying of cancer. Characters in the validly ask the question, “Is God wretched, weird or wonderful?” One could answer … yes, certainly.
Barron asks us to consider other points:
God delights in working through secondary causes. God rarely comes to us in thunder and lightning and booming voices emitting from clouds. He typically works through other avenues and people and events – like (in the movie) physicians and broken tree limbs and coincidental events. In addition, Barron emphasizes that “innocent suffering does not preclude the existence of God.” One parishioner recently said to me that “This is a generation that has continued to reduce miracles to “All things understandable from a human perspective.” From that rational perspective an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God wouldn’t permit seemingly pointless suffering. But Barron calls them out on this. He says to just look at the Bible. Everybody suffered!. Abraham suffered. Isaac suffered. Moses suffered. Joseph suffered. Sarah suffered. Naomi suffered. Then just look at the New Testament. The singular most important event of the most important person in the entire Bible is him writhing in painful agony on a cross. Any serious “biblical person” would know that a relationship with God does not preclude suffering. It’s part of the deal.
Finally, Barron final point is that suffering – even seemingly pointless suffering – gives rise to love. Throughout the movie, in the midst of the most difficult times, one person after another come forward to offer compassion and help and support – in the midst of the suffering.
Now, let’s look at today’s story of Mary and Elizabeth. It’s the same issue. Mary pregnant was not celebrated. She was “found to be with child.” By whom? Someone. The new was probably not well received. Even Joseph found the situation wretched until that “weird” little dream that he had. Elizabeth’s pregnancy was wonderful. But hubby Zach couldn’t speak or hear. That was kind of weird. In the weeks ahead, as we move further in the Christmas story we get even more wonderful (The Magi), weird (Take the child and flee to Egypt) and wretched (Herod and the Holy Innocents).
Over Christmas, it is recommended that one doesn’t speak about politics or religion. I challenge that. If religion comes up, consider if the person’s “God” is weird, wretched or wonderful. Challenge them to perhaps consider “the other God.” See where the Holy spirit takes the conversation.
Audio version of the homily is here:
In Ein Karem, Jerusalem, is The Church of the Visitation which honors the visit paid by the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. (Luke 1:39–56) This is the site where tradition tells us that Mary recited her song of praise, the Magnificat, one of the most ancient Marian hymns.
One tradition attributes the construction of the first church of Ein Karem to Empress Helena of Constantinople, Constantine I’s mother, who identified the site as the home of John’s father, Zachary.
The courtyard contains a statue of Mary and Elizabeth. On the wall opposite the entrance to the lower church are forty-two ceramic tablets of different shapes, materials and colors, which bear the verses of the Magnificat in as many different languages. On the facade of the upper church is a striking mosaic commemorating the Visitation. The lower church contains a narrow medieval barrel-vaulted crypt ending with a well-head from which, according to tradition, Elizabeth and her infant drank.