We are either blessed or cursed.
That might seem a grim dichotomy if you feel yourself on the wrong side of it; and it is likely galling if such is the sense of your situation because it means that somehow, you’ve missed out on blessing.
Too many of those who feel accursed, who are aware of the harsh realities of life, and death, rather than pursue blessing, find it easier to dismiss the dichotomy in favour of an even grimmer description of the human condition—it is all accident—there is no God, and no judge of us in our actions. So, we live neither under blessing or curse, but are “cursed” out of eternity by circumstances. In such reckoning, whatever misery or joy we know is all an accident, the random outworking of particle collisions of a primordial time before time. One has neither done anything wrong, nor anything right. We are not rewarded for goodness nor punished for evil.
So, framing the world and all that is in it as little more than a remarkable coincidence of forces and elements, the events of our lives, both great and small, are reduced to absolute irrelevance.
Yet, when a child is born, the most usual reaction is joy. This is because, in most instances of pregnancy, the frame of reference is one of hope in the future; an anticipation of new and wonderful things that come with new life. It’s a blessing.
Blessing is the underlying theme of today’s scriptures: the psalmist leads us in the prayer, “May God be gracious to us and bless us.”
This is the proper attitude of the Christian: to look for, to ask for, blessing.
When Mary is approached by the archangel Gabriel, the proposition offered by is one that could have been easily regarded as uninviting. Of course, when it the messenger of God providing the reassurances that all will be well, we can then understand Mary’s initial assent, but going forward? In the days that followed and in light of Joseph’s plan to quietly have her sent away, human anxiety doubtless comes to her even as she remains firm in her faith and conviction as to her vocation.
Even as matters settle well into God’s plan—Joseph marries her, and proves to be the good protector of the child and her, there are now decades of quiet work, and sacrifice, to bring Jesus to full adulthood, into the prime of his life when his ministry will begin. And all that must be done with the promises and assurances of the archangel as a memory growing ever distant.
Then Joseph dies, then Jesus leaves the home once and for all to take up his mission; then, of course, there is his arrest, trial and execution. All of these things distressing and painful.
In the context of a universe devoid of meaning, Mary’s life is intolerable. Within the frame of God’s blessing, however, it can be endured, and then celebrated.
I cannot say what the coming year brings. I would anticipate a good measure of pain: financial to be sure, but also emotional, psychological, and spiritual. We have a hole of some depth to crawl out of, and we must be careful not to do it by stepping on others in our scrambling out.
If you are devoid of faith, and cannot see blessing, then there is something sensible in using others as footholds and steps to escape; but we are called to see others as blessings, and as those with whom we can cooperate to see everyone safely out. We are all in this together… even those who have broken solidarity so scandalously of late—they’ve not escaped, but now are with us, hopefully penitent and humbled, and ready to help.