Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gideon, Gabriel, Mary, and Guts

(From John William Waterhouse, via, used w/o permission.)

This morning's Gospel reading is Luke 1:26-38. That's the bit that starts with:
"10 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,

"to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.

"And coming to her, he said, 'Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.' "
(Luke 1:26-28)
This comes a little after an account of Gabriel's interview with Zachariah, Luke 1:10-20. That's when Gabriel personally delivers God's response to Zachariah's prayer: and Zachariah demands proof.

Zachariah got proof, all right. He wasn't able to talk for for months. That didn't stop until he agreed with his wife about his son's name: in writing. Elizabeth's name for the boy was John, the same name Gabriel had specified:
"18 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,

"but his mother said in reply, 'No. He will be called John.'

"But they answered her, 'There is no one among your relatives who has this name.'

"So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.

"He asked for a tablet and wrote, 'John is his name,' and all were amazed.

"Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God."
(Luke 1:59-64)

Different Questions, Different Responses

I don't know why Zachariah's and Mary's questions got different responses. It's hard enough to figure out what goes on in the head of another human, let alone one of the few angels named in the Bible, and I'm getting off-topic.

Maybe it's my imagination, but Gabriel's response to Zachariah seems a tad testy:
"And the angel said to him in reply, 'I am Gabriel, 8 who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.

"But now you will be speechless and unable to talk 9 until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.' "
(Luke 1:19-20)
Now that I think of it, Zachariah's question was unnecessary: if Elizabeth was pregnant, he'd have his proof in a few months. Mary's question made more sense: "how can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"

Besides, Gabriel would know that he'd be taking orders from this young woman: and I'm getting ahead of the story. (November 1, 2014; August 18, 2013)

Tacky Religious Art and Idolatry

Not all Americans believe that Catholics worship Mary and follow the antichrist, but some do. A few of these goofy assumptions have a bit of truth in them: a tiny bit.

Tacky religious art and fallout from Henry VIII's takeover don't help.

It was decades before I realized that Guido Reni's painting didn't make Mary look like she'd been coshed — or had one too many margaritas — and that's another topic. Topics. (August 17, 2013; September 2, 2012)

The Catholic Church has rules, but we're not actually forbidden to do much. One of the 'don't do this' items involves Mary, Saints, and the tree outside my window.

As a Catholic, I must worship God: nobody, nothing, else. No exceptions. We call putting Mary, Saints, family, Elvis, or any other creature, above God idolatry. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2083-2084, 2112-2114)

We should, anyway. Catholics, like anyone else, don't always act the way we should, or understand our faith: and that's yet another topic.

We respect Mary and the other Saints, but we don't worship them. Veneration isn't worship, and I've been over that before. (April 16, 2011)

Mary and 'Happy Days' America

More recently — by my standards, which means in the last half-century — there's been a new criticism of Catholic attitudes toward Mary. I've read that she's a terrible role model because she's submissive.

Attitudes and assumptions about women in 'Happy Days' America didn't help. My opinion. I remember the 'good old days' when "she's smart as a man" was supposed to be a compliment, and never, ever, want to go back. (February 9, 2014; May 26, 2013; February 3, 2009)

I was one of 'those crazy kids' in the '60s and early '70s, and thought change was needed: but I didn't didn't buy the notion that men and women are different because we're raised differently. I'd seen men and women. On average, we don't look — or act — alike. Most of us like it that way, and I'm drifting off-topic again.

Then there were dreadfully 'spiritual' stories about Mary - - - Mary isn't the only one with a bowdlerized biography. I think we're getting past the days when Jesus gets presented as a wispy, inoffensive, Caspar Milquetoast. I hope so, anyway. (April 7, 2010; February 15, 2010)

Submissive? Maybe

Moses tried to talk his way out of being sent to Egypt, Gideon complained when an angel told him "The LORD is with you, O champion!" (Exodus 4:1; Judges 6:13)

After Gabriel outlined how she could have a son, Mary said:
"Mary said, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.' Then the angel departed from her."
(Luke 1:38)
Remember: Mary was almost certainly in her teens at the time, unmarried, and living in a society that was unsympathetic at best toward unwed mothers.

Maybe her "may it be done to me" was "submissive."

I think it also took guts, and grit: a quality she'd need, a third of a century later. (April 22, 2011)

More about Mary, people, and getting a grip:


JohnL said...

Hi Brian

Wishing you and your family a happy Christmas and a peacefilled 2015. Thank you for your interesting blog.

Brian Gill said...

Thank you, JohnL. And a happy Christmas to you, too.

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