This morning my husband came out with an interesting take on the Angel Gabriel. Yesterday, the Gospel reading told the story of Zechariah being struck silent when he did questioned the idea that his wife Elizabeth would finally conceive and bear a child. Today, the Gospel relates the story of Gabriel bringing the message to Mary – who also, it seems aked “How could this be?” JP has concluded that Gabriel is sexist in a very subtle way: he expected less of Mary – (read “Oh, sweetheart, I know this is confusing — let me explain it to you [because I know you aren’t capable of understanding this].”
My husband is a teacher – a high school science teacher. He sees this subtle sort of discrimination in Education: the discrimination of diminished expectation: You’re not so capable, so I’ll make it easier for you. It’s not only how girls are sometimes descriminated against in school, it’s also how blacks were very subtly (or not so subtly) discriminated against — it’s a gently cloaked way of saying “You’re not good enough. I don’t expect that much of you.”
I’m not so sure I come away with that conclusion about these 2 stories. But, I also know that Scripture has a way of telling many stories in a single story. It illustrates to me just how a single story is there to reach us wherever we are. He is a successful, demanding science teacher who’s students often complain at the time and come back later to say “Thank you! I was so well prepared for the next step.”
In my reading of the 2 stories, I can see his point. But what might be there, that my spouse doesn’t pick up on is this: both responded with questions, but what was the attitude with which the question was asked? Was Zechariah curious? or did he close his heart and just refuse to even consider the possibility? Did he require the forceful hand to keep him humble and out of the way until the work was done? Was he arrogant? Would he have even listened to a further explanation? Was Mary more open and just plain curious? She was obviously troubled by the whole plan. From the outcome, it can be concluded that while she might have been a bit skeptical, she remained open to listening, open to possibility.
I suspect I’m not describing all of this with any great facility.
The third idea that comes from this is that JP giving me his insight is not only a gift of his insight, but a glimpse of what lies beneath in him. How he sees the stories lets me see where he is (something that is very difficult for him to do directly – maybe impossible). His response speaks even more about where he is than it does about the stories themselves.
And maybe that is the gift of understanding that I was meant to have.