Barbara Sutton Convivium Reflection
October 31, 2019
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her;
Rejoice with her in her joy,
all you who mourn over her—
So that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
That you may drink with delight
at her abundant breasts!
For thus says the LORD:
I will spread prosperity over her like a river,
like an overflowing torrent,
the wealth of nations.
You shall nurse, carried in her arms,
cradled upon her knees
As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.
God’s promises in this reading bring the old world of ruin to an end, and in its wake, creates a new world, one in which Jerusalem is a joy (cf. 65:17). Zion is no longer a place of scarcity and collapse.
The poets and prophets behind biblical texts draw extensively from a host of images in order to convey their sense of the divine, using images of the father, the shepherd, potter, the lover who comes in search of the beloved, and the deer.
In the verses proclaimed today, God is depicted as divine Mother, the one who gives birth and carries the people of God first in the divine womb and then on the divine bosom.
God nurses, nourishes and plays with them. Expanding on this image, Kimberly Vrudny writes, “God comforts them when they are filled with discomfort and consoles them when they seem inconsolable. By drawing on this image of God, the ancient poets tapped into human experience and, by the language they chose, presented the bond between God and humankind as like the love between a mother and her baby. God lifts the creation like an infant to God’s cheek, caressing and embracing it, cherishing its sweet innocence---even knowing, as does every parent, that there are troubled days ahead.”
How do you see this image of God…the divine mother? Do you avert your eyes from her, does it arrest your imagination or are you drawn to the divine Mother? How does she fit into your cultural context?
Choosing what words to use when describing God is a serious undertaking, for how we speak about God indicates the essence of who we believe God is—an essence into which we believe we are being transformed---and becoming the community we aspire to be. By perceiving God to be a Divine Warrior, the Israelites justified war and Christians used these texts to justify crusades.
In the past week we saw this clash of images in the Amazon Synod in Rome when two men walked into a Church, boldly genuflected in front of the Blessed Sacrament and then removed a statue of Our Lady of the Amazon, whom they call Pachamama. She is brilliantly sculpted as bare breasted and pregnant—full of life and depicts a symbol of maternity and sacredness of life. In the name of the Church, these two men contemptuously threw this statue in the Tiber River. She was later rescued from the river.
Several news agencies responded collectively: “We deeply regret and at the same time denounce that in recent days, we have been victims of acts of violence, which reflect religious intolerance, racism, vexatious attitudes, which above all affect indigenous peoples, and demonstrate a refusal to build new paths for the renewal of our Church.”
Can you imagine throwing Our Lady of Guadalupe or Our Lady of Czestochowa in the river?
What about our own pagan holiday today—Halloween. What costume did you clothe yourself in as a child? Some would say that Halloween has become a Christian holiday, with churches hosting Halloween parties and costume parades. And today? Do you clothe yourself in Christ, and what does that mean for you and the community?
As a nation we too can be on the dark side of life. Not every pregnant woman faces a joyful celebration at the announcement of her pregnancy. Recent statistic indicates that the leading cause of death of pregnant women is homicide. The American College of Nurse-Midwives call this violent death during pregnancy, "a hidden epidemic." It is a ‘hidden epidemic’, said epidemiologists, because of the way deaths are reported in this country, and so the link between homicide and pregnancy often goes unremarked.
What does this mean for us here as we ‘plant seeds’ and prepare the next generation of thought and culture leaders for the Church? I suggest a model of Embodied Leadership that promotes life, and brings a tradition of spiritual wisdom, nourished by the Word of God, and engendered by a deep practice of listening the with ear of your heart to those we serve and those on the margins. We need embodied wise leaders at all levels of the church and society throughout the world who can generate new initiatives and develop infrastructures that will promote a radical shift of our relationship to our world in very practical ways. We need a collective wisdom! We need world leaders whose actions emanate from deep convictions, respect others’ values and cultures, and embody a unity of head and heart and we need Bishops and church leaders who are going to show up when Pachamama is in their sanctuary!
We need to introduce the Divine Mother to our people—a God who is good, beautiful and true…the One who calls us to resist oppression, to cross borders and thresholds, to stand in solidarity with those who suffer, and to reconcile broken relationships. Then this, this is the community we will become…and the community we will flourish in---and culminating in a new heaven and earth, a new Jerusalem, where in the fullness of time, the Divine and her earthly children will meet face-to-face, and rest secure in the knowledge ‘that nothing can separate creation from the love of God.’
 Kimberly Vrudny, Beauty’s Vineyard: A Theological Aesthetic of Anguish and Anticipation (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2012016) 19.
 Romans 8: 35-39