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Nazareth: Reflection

by Frédéric Manns

Two thousand years ago people said concerning Nazareth that nothing good could come out this village. But things have changed since a young girl of the town accepted to do the will of God and to be the mother of the Messiah.

When Pope Paul VI visited Nazareth in 1964 he gave a marvelous summary of the three lessons of Nazareth: the lesson of silence, the lesson of every day work and the lesson of family life. It is difficult to find better formulas to present the message of Nazareth.

In this town of Galilee Christians and Muslims lived together in peace until recently, when a proposal was made to build a mosque close to the Basilica of Annunciation. It will be the task of the Pope to bring back the calm to that city where all the sons of Abraham live together.

Islam respects Mary, the mother of Jesus. But this respect must be expressed in facts and not only with words. Dialogue with Islam must be reciprocal, otherwise it does not make sense. Militant Islam must realize that its past with his quest for power cannot inspire the present. Its theology cannot resist to the challenges of scientific knowledge. Intellectuals have an important role and cannot renounce it when politicians try the monopolize the decision making.

The visit of Pope John Paul II does not have a political meaning. The 25th of March is celebrated in the Christian world as the feast of the Annunciation. It is in Nazareth that the Word became flesh when Mary, a young girl of Israel, accepted to do the will of God. Through her the tree of Jesse gave its fruit. The word of God she accepted in her heart makes her choose the way of love. She immediately goes to visit Elisabeth her cousin and offers her the most precious gift: the son she bears in her. Her joy is a sign that life has prevailed.

Judaism and Islam consider the idea of the incarnation of God as a contradiction to the transcendence of God. God is too great to become man. Nevertheless E. Lévinas, a Jewish philosopher, in his speech to French intellectuals in 1968 developed the biblical idea of the humility of God. Isaiah 57:15 speaks of a God who remains with the contrite and the humble. God’s transcendence manifests itself in humility. An attribute of God is his nearness which is manifested in the face of other people.

This idea culminates in the Incarnation, which means the absence of division between divinity and humanity. God becomes man in order that man could become divine. This fundamental aspect of Christianity which affirms an Incarnated God very close to mankind is not familiar to Jews. Nevertheless Judaism and Christianity are part of the same drama and they continue to challenge each other. If God incarnates Himself, if He is looking for man created in His image, He does it because He loves mankind in His Word and because He wants to grant him in Christ the gift of adoption.

In Nazareth Pope John Paul II wants to present also to the women of our time an example of a woman who perfectly realized her vocation. John Paul II repeated many times that the Church sees in the faces of women a beauty in which the most noble sentiments of the human heart can be discovered: love totally offered, the strength to support the greatest sufferings, faithfulness without limits and working without fatigue, a deep intuition together with words of encouragement.

The vocation to love concretely in an attitude of openness to others, Jews and Muslims, is the most fundamental vocation which is the basis of every particular call. When God created men and women he gave theme the possibility to love and to enter into communion with each other.

When Mary said to the Angel that she was the servant of the Lord she expressed the fundamental attitude of her life: her faith. Mary believed in the fulfillment of the promises of God. All her life was a pilgrimage in faith. She walked in darkness hoping for the things that cannot be seen. She remains the example for women of today. Nothing can stimulate us in our daily life more than the inner experience and conviction that we are pilgrims on earth.

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Created / Updated Friday, March 25, 2005 at 0:11:04 by J. Abela, E. Alliata, E. Bermejo
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