Hail Mary, Queen of Hope

A reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Advent by Rhett Engelking, FAN Director of Franciscan Earth Corps.
This reflection was originally posted in our December 14th newsletter

“He shall be Peace.” is the prophecy that Micah offers us as we approach the last Sunday in Advent. As many persistent and unnerving questions about the religious character of war, terrorism, and the vigilantism of zealots continue to linger just below the surface of our awareness, “peace” seems so far away. Whether we are talking about the self proclaimed “warrior for babies” who killed 3 at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, the ISIL-inspired couple who killed 14 at a service center for those with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino, or endless “wars on terror” in the Abrahamic Holy Lands, critics of religion are asking us to confront the ways in which religion and violent atrocities are linked. Were you to question those at whose hands the violence was perpetrated, it is little doubt that many would reiterate some variation of “I come to do your will, O God.” It must be noted that with the high degree of pre-meditation that has gone into acts of terror, it is difficult to argue that such intentional actions weren’t willfully done. Yet despite the amount of preparation these perpetrators still demonstrate a particular impatience.
The Gospel accounts of a pregnant Mary, offer us insight into what true patience with God’s will looks. We all likely recognize by now that “she who is to give birth,” as Micah calls her, consented to carry within her womb the fate of Israel and the hopes of the world to come. (If Mary didn’t know that before visiting Elizabeth, her exuberant welcome of the bouncing baby in her womb were clear indicators.) The key acknowledgement offered by Elizabeth is of Mary’s hope, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” It is clear that their elation cannot be contained, but what is particularly remarkable about the scene of the Spirit alive in Mary and Elizabeth is the imagery invoked by their pregnancy. Something unprecedented is coming and the patient hope that precedes that coming can be enjoyed as it develops and the joy is in the moment. Joy is what is missing in the case of religious extremism and hope is the gateway out of terror.

If hope is not the centerpiece of our Christmas season, it is likely because it has been replaced by an impatient desire for a future reward. When fundamentalists disconnect from society to prepare for the Rapture and when jihadists commit suicidal istishhad there is a similar lack of hope and lack of patience. Patient hope is the key difference between the stillbirth of terrorism and the Incarnation of God. If our Advent has been more consumed with the anxiety of accumulating material and spiritual rewards than the patience of accommodating the materialization of Spirit itself, it is likely that we have not and will not recognize the Son of God in our midst. Micah reminds us that Christ’s origin is “of old,” so there is no question of whether peace is to come, God’s Spirit is already in our midst. The real question is whether we are able to greet and willing to accommodate those times when the Spirit of hope is pregnant in our midst. We can even do so with the gratefulness of Elizabeth.

Rhett Engelking
FAN Director of Franciscan Earth Corps

Published in: on December 15, 2015 at 9:41 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Rhett, what a thoughtful reflection! May we all be gifted with patient hope as we accommodate the opportunities to welcome Peace in our midst!

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