born in scandal
Fr. Elias Puentes, SJAssociate Pastor | St. Leo Catholic Church
“She was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
From Matthew 1:18-25
Mary was found to be with child. The confounding terms of her conception implied a scandal that Joseph was intent on keeping quiet. Here, in the midst of an unexpected pregnancy, Mary experienced the incarnate presence of God.
This story’s perplexing experience was magnified not hidden, by the Spirit.
God is in the world now as the body of the Risen Christ who is continually being conceived and born into the world. And we are being invited to pay attention to the magnifying power of the Spirit who is at the center of every conception.
Like Mary and Joseph, I too have experienced the conception of God as disturbing, frightening, and perplexing.
A couple of months ago, I was in Mexico with migrant mothers and their infants from Central America as they begged for food and shelter on the side of the road. In this perplexing encounter, I experienced a moment of conception that gave birth in me to both the heartache of solidarity and a gospel hope for liberation for millions of refugees and migrants.
God is conceived beyond all borders.
I have also experienced this kind of conception in the city of Tacoma. One day, after the celebration of the liturgy at St. Leo Church, an indigent woman who was experiencing profound mental distress approached me in a hostile manner. She clearly felt threatened by me. My guess, based on what she said to me, was that she might have experienced sexual assault. Thus, my presence was threatening to her.
I walked away from this disturbing experience feeling filled by the presence of God. I experienced another moment of conception as my heart was filled with sorrow for the harm done to this woman and to so many women, and, at the same time, I could feel the seeds of hope that one day the relationships between men and women might be different.
The experiences cited above have haunted me for weeks in ways that attract my attention towards God within us. In these experiences, my senses are awakened and attuned to the mystery of God’s grace coursing through the streets of Tacoma and beyond. These moments of conception have been filled not only with perplexity but also with a hint of scandal that the Spirit seems willing to magnify.
God is dancing in the womb of Tacoma, eager to be born in the tent cities where the indigent woman who approached me is likely sleeping tonight. God is also dancing in the womb of every refugee eager to be born into a new way of life – a new home where everyone belongs.
God within us is being conceived and born regardless of our readiness.
Dwelling Among Us
Is there a word or phrase stands out to you? What is it calling forth?
Is it your experience that new life is always being conceived and relentlessly being born into the world in scandalous ways? Can you identify people and places where this is happening?
Go and sit in the cafeteria at Tacoma General. Watch the people around you—the weary nurses, the surgeons on lunch break, the worried family members, and the proud parents of the newest babies. How is God being conceived in each and every situation of both joy and sorrow? Pray this prayer: Emmanuel who is always needing to be born, be born in us today.