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Spiritual Reflection – Pentecost 13

Spiritual Reflection – Incarnation

Human life begins as a single cell, dependent on its immediate environment. The miracle of life is that it remains itself, even as it develops. The single cell multiplies and diversifies, forming a more complex organism, until it becomes independent. And so it comes to birth. But growth continues. The care and nurturance hitherto provided internally in the mother’s womb needs to be continued externally in the bosom of the family—ideally by those biologically similar to the newborn. A helpless infant becomes the centre of a complex of nurturing activities lasting maybe half a lifetime. This involves more than food and shelter. Just as our body grows by absorbing matter from its environment, so we continue to develop by the emotional, mental, and spiritual formation we receive from those around us. 

It is not so difficult to grasp that the Word of God expressed himself in human form by a physical body. We sometimes forget that this taking flesh meant that the Word of God was also expressed in a social body—inextricably located not only in space and time but also in a family, a race, a nation. By the incarnation the Word became human and, in so doing, put himself at risk, entrusting himself to a particular family not only for the necessities of life but for the formation appropriate for a man of his time. 

We may like to think that the family of Nazareth was exceptional, and it probably was. Yet, if we consider the genealogies given us in the gospels, we can see more than one scoundrel in the background, and none whose virtue was not tarnished by some failing. Perhaps we demean Jesus’ family by insisting too much on their perfection—as it happens, in stark contrast to what is conveyed to us in the gospels. Part of being human is living with perceived imperfection, our own and that of others. Part of growing up is learning to deal with imperfection or somehow bypassing it and not being laid low by it. 

Jesus was like us in all things except sin. The holy family of Nazareth was probably closer to us than we are inclined to think. The source of holiness was not a merely human achievement, but God within, acting to bring to perfection the good work begun in conception and meant to continue throughout life. 

Michael Casey. Balaam’s Donkey: Random Ruminations for Every Day of the Year (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2019), eBook Location 3831.

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