by Rev. Robert H. Tucker
December 15, 1997
No Longer Plaster Saints
No longer are Joseph and Mary plaster saints. That change
took place because of the race back to the city park in northern
Italy to find our young daughter, whom we had inadvertently left
behind. Two vans with two families and seven kids floating in
and out of each in ever-changing combinations made it easy for
a child to get lost. That situation also makes it easy for me
to understand how, in a caravan of families returning to Nazareth
following a visit to Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph did not realize
their twelve year old son was missing. I now shared with them
that heart-pounding anxiety and fear-laden premonition while speedily
returning to find one's missing child. Our daughter was missing
for a half hour, their son for three days. Mary is recorded as
saying, "All generations will call me blessed," but
for Protestants, who cling so tightly to the Bible as the "very
Word of God," Mary's assertion was never really followed.
Not so for Roman Catholics. The Madonna is central both to devotion
and to theology (her bodily assumption into heaven was made dogma
in 1950, and it was then assumed that it was only a matter of
time until she became co-redeemer [along with Jesus] of the human
race). But since we humans often define ourselves over against
our 'enemies,' we Protestants seldom mentioned Joseph and Mary,
except in Christmas carols.
I began to read their story in light of the travails common
to us humans: an out-of-wedlock pregnancy; a man willing to overlook
the scandal and adopt the child; living with the threat of the
infant's death and the reality of his early adult death; bringing
disgrace on the family by his making a public spectacle of himself;
and that awful, fearsome anguish of a child lost. Flesh and blood,
anguish and yearning replaced the plaster.
What connects us humans, at the deepest level, is not our
talents and successes, but our needs and failures. Hearing a person
tell of the latest accomplishment of a child, competency on the
golf course, professional prowess, or good deeds leaves the listener
defensive or hostile.
But to sit with another and to mutually share anxieties and
failures builds the bridges of our common humanity. For that reason,
12-step programs and group therapy are so effective. For that
reason, we need people with whom we can take off our masks and
begin to meet each other as individuals. For that reason, I now
honor Joseph and Mary who, in the midst of life's travails, endured,
and helped give the world a God we address in family terms.
--Robert H. Tucker
15 December 1997
- © Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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