God Writes Straight with Crooked Lines

12-19-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In thinking about this weekend's scripture and one of the underlying themes in all of it, we are reminded of the wonderful saying of God writes straight with crooked lines. We learn in the scripture and perhaps from personal observations, we can discover God's presence in the most unexpected places and people. Those who are planners and have a need to be always in control or always be "right" do not like the crooked lines with which God writes. Often they feel threatened. Those who are able to see the hand of God in the crooked lines are amazed and grateful to him.

The prophets Micah and Amos were contemporaries who both had a deep concern about social justice. The great quote of Micah "only to do what is right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God" is a poignant and powerful prod and reminder about true social justice. Our first reading offers us Micah's surprising prophecy of the coming Messiah. Micah tells us the one who will shepherd his people by the strength of the Lord will appear in the backward and almost unknown town of Bethlehem, and not in the great City of Jerusalem. Micah also adds that the greatness of this (new) ruler will stretch to the very ends of this earth. In fact this ruler will be peace; he will not only bring peace. All of this, according to Micah, is the will of God for us.

Our Gospel story of the pregnant Mary travelling into the rural hill country to help her older cousin Elizabeth is a reflection of part of the great vision of Micah. Certainly Elizabeth in addressing Mary tells us that this is all something special from God: "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb".

Elizabeth wonders how and then asks Mary that question. Mary does not answer Elizabeth's question because it is unanswerable. In response Mary joins in the wonderful song of praise. We say that Mary is responsible for the beautiful hymn and prayer of praise called the Magnificat. Indeed we can also think in our minds that perhaps the Town of Bethlehem asked: "Who are we to receive the Son of Man?" All three, the little Town of Bethlehem, older Elizabeth and valiant Mary are all the center of attention of God as symbols for us. We must come to understand that our whole earth is the focus of God's attention. All people, all of us are issued an invitation to follow the will of God. The will of God is not like a willful person; we must not confuse the two and make them the same. God's will is simply God's desire, God's best wish and hope for us. Part of our second reading this weekend tells us that Jesus came to bring to fullness God's desire or "will." We learn in the first reading that this will is our peace and our joy.

Note how this weekend in particular that the responsorial psalm helps us more easily understand that we should turn our faces to God and that we accept the salvation as prophesied by Micah and anticipated by Elizabeth and Mary, and in the fullness of time, brought by Jesus to all of us.