by Megan McKenna
“Who are we drawing into the circle of God?”
For us, just days after the child is born, danger appears. Oh, the book of Sirach seeks with folk wisdom in the culture of the Jewish family to teach what the commandment “Honor your father and mother” looks like in practice. Do not grieve your parents. Care for them in their old age, be considerate of them, even if their minds fail, revere them. But this is the old way, with this respect limited to blood ties. Now the family has extended out into time and space.
Paul reminds us that we are all now God’s chosen ones and we are to care for all and love each other with “heartfelt mercy, kindness, humility, meekness (nonviolence) and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving as God has forgiven us, and over all, bind ourselves with the swaddling cloths of love and Christ’s peace.” Because now the Word dwells within us. Now we are the living, breathing, singing gospel. Our families are small seeds of community, of church, but we need much more than our blood relatives to learn this kind of living, living in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God.
And the Gospel, found only in Matthew, interrupts any thought of a settled family life. It is a story of terror, of dislocation, of fleeing from harm, of violence, of nationalism and the misuse of power and authority. It is even a story to shake us out of our naivete. It is about evil and its cunning ways, trapping even seekers after good into its maw and using their limited information and good intentions to destroy goodness and wreak murder upon the innocent. We pick up the story after the astrologers leave because of a dream telling them to go home another way, avoiding Herod’s court. Joseph dreams again and the family runs for its life, living in exile, as illegal aliens for years, until a dream alerts Joseph to the fact that they can go back now. But they hide out in a backwater town, Nazareth of Galilee, where no one will think to look for a savior, a shepherd who will grow up to bring freedom and hope to his people and all those who seek peace with justice in this world.
This reflection is from Who Will Summon the Dawn? Reflections for Advent 2001. Megan McKenna is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, author and storyteller.