St Joachim and Ann

Parents of Mary (entered heaven in the first century)

Dear Joe,

Well, once again you have proved that you’re no angel – thanks be to God.  If you did act like an angel, I’d be worried. As it is, I’m not worried at all.  If you are surprised at your tendency to fall into sin, you deluding yourself. It is your delusional pride that makes you think you shouldn’t have tendencies to sin, and that you should be plenty strong enough all by yourself not to give in to temptation.  My dear nephew, you are a fallen creature, a member of Adam’s race; when you were redeemed in the waters of baptism you regained friendship with God, but he did not obliterate your wounded human nature – he left it there to give you something to fight against.  In this life, you will NEVER be free from temptation and weakness. You have got to accept that, or you’ll never make any progress in the spiritual life. You NEED God’s help to achieve the holiness and happiness you long for, and you will continue needing it until the day you die.  A Christian is not someone who lives in the clouds of faultless perfection; a Christian is someone who follows Christ along the muddy, steep, and rocky path that leads to the very earthly cross of Calvary.

This is one of the mysterious things about Christianity – a spirituality with one foot firmly and unshakably planted in heaven and the other foot solidly planted on earth.  I guess it has something to do with the Incarnation: Jesus Christ is true God and also true man. Even Mary, the sinless Mother of God, was (and is) as real and earthy as the lady who serves up the lasagna in the cafeteria.  Sometimes we forget that, and we get this mistaken idea in our heads that somehow if we are authentic Christians we suddenly become ethereal and angelic. On days like today, when the Church celebrates the memorial of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Ann, we are reminded of the truth.  

Actually, we know few details about these two Nazareans.  (Unreliable legend suggests that they married at a young age, suffered public mockery and reproach because they couldn’t have children, and obtained the blessing of fertility after much prayer and fasting and the appearance of an angel.)  They were normal folk just like Mike and Lucy down the street (how are they doing, by the way? I’ve no news of them for ages), and God reached right into the midst of their nondescript lives in order to bless them with a child destined to become Queen of Heaven and Earth.  (Though she herself led a quiet, unspectacular life as well.) Such are the ways of our God, who meets us in the mundane realities of our very human and imperfect world.

And that’s exactly where you have got to find him.  Don’t go thinking that you will only encounter God when you have violently purged yourself of every concupiscent vestige; it’ll never happen.  Christ wants to walk with you here and now – leave your heavenly arrival time up to him.

Terrestrially yours, Uncle Eddy

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