Community of Faith: Called back to the beginning

Community of Faith: Called back to the beginning

Mary Ann Bigelow

Mary Ann Bigelow

I love the season of Advent. There is a call, a call to wait, to listen in the darkness, to remember why we celebrate this mystery of Incarnation, God with us, year after year after year. Even in the midst of all the business and shopping, trying to pick out the perfect gifts, festivities and gatherings, there is a call to go back to the beginning. I find myself pondering the opening of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”? I must admit that I have always struggled with this reading. What could it possibly mean? Then I read the book entitled The Book Thief and somehow understanding came like a light bulb coming on. Let me explain.

The majority of the novel takes place in the fictional town of Molching, Germany, near Munich, between 1939 and 1943. Death narrates the story of Liesel Meminger, beginning when she is nine years old and suffering from the death of her brother and separation from her mother. Liesel goes to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann. When Liesel arrives, she can't read and is made fun of in school. She realizes how powerless she is without words, and so Hans teaches her how to read during midnight lessons in the basement.

The narrator begins each chapter with some morsel of story that will be developed in the pages ahead. Sometimes it’s a fact to be understood with greater clarity; other times it’s a mere definition. But there is always the underlying current of the importance, the power, the beauty that lies within the words of our stories. In the latter part of the book the chapter opens with the definition of the word, as in “I give you my word.” The definition is PROMISE, “I give you my promise.” Listen now to the Gospel substituting “Promise” for “Word.”

“In the beginning was the Promise, and the Promise was with God, and the Promise was God. The Promise was with God in the beginning. Through the Promise all things were made. In the Promise was life, and that life became the light of all mankind. And the light shines on in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. And the Promise became flesh and made his dwelling among us…the one and only Son… full of grace and truth.” Yes, God’s word is God’s Promise from the very beginning.

Who is this God who Loves like this, who gives His Word, His Promise of Fidelity, His Promise to sustain and labor after all of Creation, after all of us, no matter how often we falter? His promise is unconditional Love for all time, made palpable, made real in Christ, the Son.

There is but one way for us to respond to such Love. We are called to love one another. There is no better time than this season of Advent to renew our efforts to reflect the Light of Love in our world. I invite you to take a moment away from the noise and activity to dwell in the mystery and pray for the grace to be open, generous and courageous as we embrace the Call to Love our God by loving each other.

Mary Ann Bigelow is a wife, mother and Spiritual Director with the St. Francis Xavier Parish Ignatian Retreat Ministry. She can be reached at

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