The unexpected, the Divine

    December 12, 2023
    Advent reflection day 10 graphic. Watercolor brush strokes of Christmas tree branches in white and pale green.

    Nuestra Senora de Gaudalupe today celebrates this most blessed Patroness of the Americas and of Americans (South, Central and North). To consider this for a moment, what an unusual Patroness we have: a mestiza woman expecting a child. In the cosmology of our Church, and across global faith traditions, this is not a common sign of the Divine among us. What a gift, what a challenge this is for us.

    As if Jesus’ incarnation among a subjugated people on the margins of Empire did not make the point strongly enough, now the Divine breaks through again among a colonized community suffering genocide. I don’t think I’m overstepping here to suggest that God seems to have a theme in mind. Can we pay attention?

    The Lectionary gives us a choice today, with Luke’s Gospel telling the stories of either the Annunciation — Gabriel giving Mary cause to ponder how God’s plan shall come to pass amidst troubling news — or the Visitation — Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, herself a recipient of God’s blessing in the form of new, unexpected life. How do we bring these foundational stories into our current moment? How can we see God’s work among us today?

    Certainly at Catholic Charities agencies, we come face to face with the marginalized every day. Certainly God is breaking through by way of unexpected actors all around us. Recently, I’ve been working with a single dad — Jake — and his three school-age boys. They’ve been working through programs of ours to exit homelessness and gain tenancy in permanent supportive housing that we operate. But we’re struggling to keep them sheltered while we wait for the approval process. This family will likely spend more nights homeless while we wait. And winter has arrived in earnest: snow falls as I write. Our efforts are great but may still fall short of our goals. Jake is resilient and speaks openly of his faith. I wish he didn’t have to be so resilient.

    Help us, Our Lady of Guadalupe, to see your children among our brothers and sisters, to recognize the in-breaking of the Divine in unexpected forms. Help us to pay attention.

    Scott Cooper serves as Vice President of Mission for Catholic Charities Eastern Washington (Diocese of Spokane). He sings in the choir at Sacred Heart Parish.

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