Friday, December 28, 2018
Michelle Jung Has Something to Say Fourth Sunday of Advent 2018
Fourth Sunday of Advent
When Dan asked me to offer today’s homily, it set off a series of emotions in my head. Surprise. Confusion. Excitement. But mostly fear. I asked myself “who am I to offer a homily?” What have I done to be deserving of the eyes and ears of my fellow parishioners? What message could I possibly share on this last Sunday of Advent, that Dan or Tom could not do a better job of delivering? Certainly they would be more experienced and more eloquent.
I’m just me, I’m just a mom….
I gave birth to my son Theo on July 4, 2014, after a very dramatic two days of laboring at home, a traumatic epidural gone wrong, and an hour and half of pushing.
I gave birth to my daughter Valerie on September 10, 2016 in a less dramatic fashion but certainly very eventful. After pushing for only 10 minutes, I was the one to reach down, grab her, and deliver her to my chest – under the guidance of my doctor. It was not planned. Just a spontaneous, very special decision.
I also unfortunately experienced a miscarriage between my two children. A very physical and emotional pain, only understood by those who have actually been through it. For those of you who know me, I am not one to show weakness. I do not ask for help, mostly because I do not like admitting that I need it. But the miscarriage was something that shook my deepest core, and had it not been for my faith – I likely would have suffered longer, harder, and deeper.
You often hear that raising children full time is the toughest job in the world. Note – I say, raising children full time. Not – “staying at home full time”. Because every mom in here knows, we are literally never home! Always on the go, drop offs, pick ups, classes, and when we are at home, it is the same. Not one still moment. Changing this, picking that up, making food, cleaning this… Unlike working outside the home, being a full time mom you receive little acknowledgement of your accomplishments, no promotions, no raise, no happy hours to blow off steam… No pat on the back for finding the long lost missing red coin that belonged inside the Superman belt. And while I will not use the cliché of “but it is so rewarding” (which it is…) I will instead testify to the truth, the truth that being a full time mom is hard. But – by taking on this new career, it has also opened my eyes to things I don’t think I would have ever realized otherwise. For example, Joseph. The unsung hero of the Holy Family; and really our whole church. His devotion to his family and God, unrivaled. Mary. The young, inexperienced first-time mom. My appreciation and love of the Holy Family has deepened and strengthened… both with Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as individuals and also as a family unit.
Each time I have gotten ready to go to the hospital, to give birth – I always remind myself, if Mary could do this as a teenager, have contractions on a donkey, give birth in a stable surrounded by animals, I think just maybe I can do this with modern medicine, doctors, and nurses in a Manhattan hospital. Just maybe.
I like to think Mary was a strict mom. Not because she was raising the Savior of the world, but because that was her style. Sometimes I like to wonder what Jesus was like as a child. Imagine him as a toddler. Did he have tantrums? How quickly did he potty train? Was he a good eater? Did he like watching his Dad work? Did he like taking naps? Picture Mary saying “Jesus, it’s time for your nap!” “No Mommy! I’m not tired!”.
I remember hearing today’s Gospel as a child, and picturing a little baby jumping up and down (literally) in Elizabeth’s womb as Mary entered her home. In fact, I think I may have even done a drawing in Sunday School about it. How exciting that must have been, for Mary and Elizabeth to be pregnant together; to both be carrying tiny miracles in their womb. What was it like for Mary, to be greeted by Elizabeth in such a way? Did she have constant reminders, like this encounter, that she was carrying the Light of the world? That she was going to be the mother of a baby, who she would raise, who would then grow into the Man that would become Christ? Maybe she was not thinking about it much at all, and went about day to day life as normal. Which is why reminders, such as in this Gospel, were of crucial importance; to occasionally remind Mary of her immaculate conception and favor in Heaven.
What were those 9 months like for Mary? After courageously accepting the heroic task from Gabriel, did she have moments when she regretted it? How did she feel, knowing she had to face Joseph? Did she have cravings? Was she extra sensitive to odors like most of us? What was it like feeling the baby first move? Did it make a difference back then, knowing she was having a boy? Did she ever wonder if it was actually a girl?
While we can never know for sure how Mary was feeling, Ignatian spirituality tells me when Jesus was born – she was not thinking about any of those things. On that day, over two thousand years ago – I imagine she was simply marveling at the beautiful baby she just gave birth to. She was admiring his ten toes, ten fingers, and humbly adored the marvelous creation she carried into Life.
I have always known I wanted a big family. Just like I have always known I wanted to be a full time Mom. It was never a question for me, it was just a matter of when and God’s will. However, it was not until recently that I actually discerned I am answering my call from God, that I am serving God’s purpose for me. I believe my calling is to do GOOD on this Earth, by raising GOOD little people, have them grow into GOOD big people, who will then go on and DO GOOD things of their own. To perpetuate the selfless love my grandmother had for my mom, and my mom has for me.
When I look at my children, I know the depth of God’s love, generosity, his mercy and divinity. His love for us is unconditional, endless, pure – just like that of a little child. When I see the gifts he gave me in the form of Theo and Valerie, I wonder what I have done to deserve these happy, healthy children? Apparently – not much. I’m just me. And that’s enough for Him.
If you stop and really, really think about that notion…it’s an incredible concept. If I think about all the times I have just stared at my children sleeping, eating, talking or playing – how I think my heart might explode from the love I have for them, the joy they bring me…. To think God loves us even more than that. And all he wants in return, is for us to just try, He knows we wont always succeed, but at least try to love each other just a sliver of the way he Loves us. It’s nothing short of miraculous.
We are, who we are – just as we’re meant to be. Meant to be where we are this morning. Siting next to each other, praying together as one community. We are all God’s children. There’s no argument, no debate there. We just are. It’s a gift he’s giving and it’s up to us whether we accept it or not. But on this last Sunday of Advent, the season of waiting, waiting in anticipation, in excitement – let us prepare our hearts for the wondrous love God prepared for us, by being extra loving to each other. If you typically do not show appreciation for someone, try showing it. If you find yourself always holding back, try giving your all. If you are not usually the one to reach out first, try doing it.
Waiting is not easy. It’s not easy for adults, and it is certainly not easy for children. But instead of waiting for a second coming of Christ, or a sign from God, let’s accept the birth of Jesus with Joy and Gratitude. Let’s not wait anymore. Let us celebrate with all our hearts this Christmas; for He lives in all of us, in our hearts and in our minds. And that Love will only strengthen as we embrace it in each other.
So, who am I? I am Michelle. The daughter of Michael & Jinhee, the sister to Grace and David, the Corean American who is so proud of the Corean-part, the 12 year parishioner of St. Francis Xavier, the Pastoral Council member. The wife of Arnold, whom I married right here. And most importantly, I am The Mother to Theo and Valerie….and soon, to their little sister. Offering a humble message of Love, on this 4th Sunday of Advent.
Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”. I say, Blessed are we, the children of God – to know his love for us. To know Jesus Christ.
The Love of God, manifest.