Friday, December 21, 2007

The Time of Pruning the Vines Has Come

December 21, 2007

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
Songs 2:11-12

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:42-45


God, help us in this busy season to move in haste to serve the needs of those around us. Prune us from concentrating on ourselves to that we can focus on you and the work you seek us to accomplish. Amen.


For three days in the week before Christmas, the Church has us contemplate the role of Mary. Yesterday, we reflected on the Annunciation. Today, we turn to the Visitation of Mary with her cousin Elizabeth. Tomorrow, we encounter the Magnificat.

As the Christmas season rushes toward us, we too contemplate spending time with our family. However, can we ever even remotely considering offering the beauty and power of the triple blessing and greeting that Elizabeth offers to Mary?

Elizabeth knows that she is in the company of a holy woman. Blessed are you among women.

Elizabeth is the first person beyond Mary herself and Joseph who has the faith to understand that Mary’s child is from God and is God. Blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Elizabeth knows that Mary has taken a leap of faith to live out what God has commanded her. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

However, before and beyond the greeting, note Mary’s action. No sooner has she learned her news and the news of Elizabeth than Mary set out to see her cousin. After her encounter with God, Mary responded with the action expected of an ordinary woman -- action on behalf of those in need. She brought good news to Elizabeth and helped her cousin with the delivery of her child.

In his book Mary of Nazareth, Prophet of Peace, John Dear points out that Mary quickly moved from fear and confusion in the presence of the angel to joy in the presence of Elizabeth. She does not wait. She sets out in haste.

He reminds us that like Mary we don’t have to go out to save the world. We can start with the needs of the people around us. People in our home. People in our neighborhood. People in our extended family. God not only put them in our lives but God also placed them in close proximity to us for a reason.

Finally, Dear explains how these actions build community. We can not stay by ourselves once we encounter God. “By reaching out to serve someone in need, she deepens the bonds of community. When we reach out in active love to our neighbors in need, we can build community with them, and in the process, create a new pocket of love, care, hospitality, and peace for one another.”

If this were a Cursillo, Mary would start with the confusion of Thursday night. Why am I here? She wrestles with questions about herself. Then she works on her relationship with God. Then she moves out into the community.


Have you seen the movie Hotel Rwanda? Think of the example of Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who acted swiftly to save the lives of 1,268 people who came to his hotel for refuge. They were his neighbors. In his book, An Ordinary Man, Paul explains:

I am not a politician or a poet. I built my career on words that are plan and ordinary and concerned with everyday details. I am nothing more or less than a hotel manager, trained to negotiate contracts and charged to give shelter to those who need it. My job did not change the genocide, even though I was thrust into a sea of fire. I only spoke the words that seemed normal and sane to me. I did what I believed to be the ordinary tings that an ordinary man would do. I said no to outrageous actions the way I thought that anybody would, and it still mystifies me that so many others could say yes.

What actions can you move to do in haste today to help your neighbor in need? What vines in your garden of life need to be pruned in order to yield fruit and flowers?

How about sharing something with the homeless person who stands on the sidewalk near your office or on the side of the street where you pass everyday heading to work. Or the security guard you pass going to work or the person on the building or maintenance crew who keeps your office running. Each day, these people are in close proximity to us for a reason. What are we doing about them.

(Today's icon of Mary, Our Lady of the New Advent, the Gate of Heaven, is by Fr. William Hart McNichols, S.J. and the website His icons illustrate Fr. John Dear's book.)

No comments: