December 23, 2015

Theotokos: Fourth Week of Advent: Poverty & Inside

Coming soon! Nativity: Welcome to Bethlehem. Starts Christmas day.

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Theotokos: 4th Week of Advent

while they were there” (Luke 2:6)

As Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem the quiet silence of their journey was invaded by the frantic noise of thousands of pilgrims cramming into the Judean city. Joseph’s meager income hadn’t provided for the surprise “decree”; therefore, the simplicity of his Galilean lifestyle was strained. There was the census tax. There were obvious travel expenses. Joseph had not prepared for any of this. Plus, it was a sellers market, and the unexpected census created an unseasonable demand. Everything cost more—food, water, lodging, etc. This young couple, tired from 90 miles of exhausting travel had no one and nothing. They were utterly dependent on God. Mary and Joseph were swaddled in poverty.

God loves poverty—so much so that it was the canvas upon which He painted His birth into humanity. However, why do we not like inner poverty? Perhaps it is because it feels like we are dying—as we let go, it feels as if we have nothing to hold on to. Perhaps it is because we feel vulnerable—and vulnerability feeds panic because of a loss of security. Perhaps it is because we have nothing to offer God—and we really believe that we have to give God something in order for Him to love us. Perhaps it’s because we are afraid—and there is a lie in us that sounds something like, “I’m alone, and God won’t come through.”

Now, listen to the voice of God—“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). God loves poverty. Why? Because poverty leads to emptiness ... empty leads to perfect echo ... and echo leads to perfect worship.

Mary was empty, which means she was poor. Spend some time with the Theotokos and ask her what was it was like to be utterly poor.

For your prayer

Mary and Joseph would have prayed with the Book of Zephaniah. Prep your imaginative prayer by reading Zephaniah 2 and 3. Use your spiritual senses and imaginatively pray with Mary and Joseph in Luke 2:6.

"Father, I ask for the grace today to taste your strength in my weakness. I beg you to open my heart so that I embrace my poverty."

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Theotokos: 4th Week of Advent

there was no place for them” (Luke 2:7)

Poor, dependent, and exhausted, Mary and Joseph urgently search for lodging, for Mary’s contractions have started and the time has come for “her to be delivered” (Luke 2: 6). Joseph restlessly searches; however, the only thing he finds is rejection.

“There’s no room.”

“You can’t stay here.”

“I told you to leave.”

Doors close—one after another. And, as Mary sighs in contraction, all they see is rejection.

Instead of being welcomed by the arms of Bethlehem, they are rejected—cast aside to the outside.

Sometimes our commitment to discipleship challenges us. Depending on where we find ourselves, sometimes we can feel as if we’re cast aside to the outside. Because of different situations—holiday family gatherings, conversations at work, or difficult encounters in strained relationships—our commitment to Christ can cause us to feel as “we’re on the outside looking in.”

In those moments, commitment can lead to rejection, rejection can lead to dependency, and dependency can lead to intimacy. Mary was able to embrace the rejection of Bethlehem, cast outside, because she knew who she had on the inside. Instead of grasping for acceptance on the outside, Mary adjusted her gaze to the inside, finding God with her.

Spend some time with Mary. Ask her to reveal how she handled the rejection of Nazareth. Ask her to reveal to you how you handle rejection. Ask her Son to help you taste His consistent presence on the inside, even if you feel rejected on the outside.

For your prayer

Mary and Joseph would have often prayed with Psalm 31. Prep your imaginative prayer by slowly reading Psalm 31. Use your spiritual senses and imaginatively pray with Mary and Joseph in Luke 2:7.

"Father, I long for your unconditional acceptance when I’m rejected. Help me to stand firm in your Truth, no matter the circumstance.”

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© Fr. Mark Toups, 2015