Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

This passage of Luke’s Gospel completes what we call in the scriptures the nativity narrative, the part of Luke’s Gospel where he describes everything from the enunciation to Mary and the visitation, and then the birth of Jesus and the visit of the kings, and so on. Now we’re coming to a conclusion of the nativity narratives. This particular passage is, I think, a really good one to bring to a conclusion what we’ve been reflecting on through the season of Advent and preparation, and then last week we celebrated, remembered the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago.

But I think often we do not really have a deep enough sense of the extraordinary thing that happened when Jesus was born into human history, became part of our human community, our human family. St. Paul, in one of his letters, talks about Jesus as being son of God in power (this is after his resurrection). Jesus is son of God, but also son of Mary. One like us in every way except sin; fully human in every way. This is the mystery of the incarnation — Jesus, son of God, and yet one of us, fully human. And there’s no crossover between his divinity and his humanity — two completely separate ways of being, as one of us, but also son of God. It’s a mystery that’s beyond our comprehension, but it’s a mystery that we begin to enter into when we try to reflect deeply on this reality: God coming into our world, into our history, becoming part of the human race.

When the first disciples (like Paul again, for example), were confronted with this mystery, remember Paul started out as a Pharisee who was trying to stop the Christian movement. He was persecuting Christians. Then he had this vision of Jesus risen, and Paul was thrown to the ground; he was stunned, and it totally changed his life when he realized this Jesus, whom he was persecuting and his followers, was in fact the son of God. It just overwhelmed him, changed his whole life, and that is what happens to any of us if we really begin to try to grapple with this truth, that God came into our world — God, the one who is beyond all human history, who is transcendent, who is the source of all being — this God becomes one of us. It’s a mystery that we need to try to ponder very deeply…

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