Today, nine months prior to Christmas, we pause to mark the occasion of the angel’s Annunciation to Mary. There is no better justification than to emphasize that Mary’s child is fully human! Whatever other theological assertions might be made, we profess that Jesus was brought to birth through a very human pregnancy.
Our challenge on a day like this is to be careful our faith is really not more Greek than Christian. Ancient philosophers like Plato did much to lay the foundation for western civilization. It also polluted our faith with a philosophical “dualism” — body/soul, human/divine, physical/spiritual — that plagues believes ever since.
It’s as if a very strong disposition to bi-polar disease was spliced into our Christian DNA. It’s too easy to look at Mary’s child and say, “But he’s God!” Today we are reminded that Jesus is the child of a thoroughly human mother. We are reminded that Jesus came to birth through a normal, natural, nine-month pregnancy like every other child.
Today’s somewhat dissonant reminder of Jesus’s origins serves as a much-needed corrective as we transition into Holy Week. It is too easy to look at Jesus in his agony, arrest, trial, abandonment, crucifixion and dismiss his sacrifice — “But he’s God!” We do him the ultimate disservice (as well as ourselves) if we fail to say in the same voice, “And he is fully human!”
How else are we to make sense of Jesus’s passionate admonition, the standard he wants us to keep in mind for making every week holy and living every day as if it were our last:
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)
Seems Jesus accepts no distinction between body/soul, human/divine, physical/spiritual. Mary made no distinction. Neither should we!