Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily. December 21, 2008. Ken Hughes, SJ. Anunciation. (at St. Mary of the Angels)
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Homily.  December 21,2008.  Ken Hughes, SJ.  Annunciation (at St. Mary of the Angels)

 

Back in 1988, exactly 20 years ago, a recently married woman by the name of Mary Anderson, stood in line at the Miami airport, ready to travel to Europe to join her husband who had found work there.  But, at the airport counter, she was shocked to hear that she would have to pay an additional 103 dollars for her overweight luggage.  She had no money and no one to call.  Nor was there anything in her bags that she could discard as she had already made a careful selection of her most prized possessions.  As tears streamed down her face, she heard a gentle and friendly voice behind her saying, “That’s o.k.  I’ll pay for her.”  She did not know this tall stranger who spoke, and wondered, “Who is this man?”  Gratefully, she checked her bags, took down his name and address, and promised to pay him as soon as she reached her destination. – which she did.

 

Mary never forgot this man, his quiet dignity, his generosity, his friendly face as he waved her off at the security gate. And she never forgot his name because it was a funny name, “Barack Obama.”

 

That was twenty years ago when 103 dollars was worth much more than today, at the time when Mr. Obama had just finished his job as a poorly paid community worker in Chicago and was beginning studies at Harvard Law School, and at a time when the idea of becoming president of the United States was impossible for an Afro-American.

 

Why do I tell you this story?  Because the story of Barack, who will soon be our president fits in with today’s stories of David and Mary. Like Barack, these two seem to be the most unlikely people to have been chosen in their youth for such tremendous responsibility. David was a mere shepherd boy when he was chosen to become King of Israel.  Mary was only a teenager when chosen to become Mother of God.  Somehow, these young people were open to callings that would involve more and more struggle and sacrifice, commitment and generosity.  These stories invite us to ponder the mystery of unlikely people being chosen, despite their weaknesses in age or character, to take responsibility in some great way for God’s people.  In saying, “Yes,” to the call, God then shapes them for the task.  We call these moments “annunciations.”     

 

True, only a few are chosen for great responsibilities.  But all of us are chosen for some responsibility.  We are all part of God’s dream for this world. God announces to each of us a task, a project, an action that will help make this world a better place.

 

Wednesday night, at our Advent prayer service, we listened to stories of those from St. Mary of the Angels who recently visited The Shattuck Hospital.  They spoke of how touched patients were to be visited and given clothing, how, in turn, they, the givers, felt blessed by the gratitude and sensitivity of patients who wanted to make sure that others were not left out.  There was an invitation to everyone to make this visit, but I suspect that those who responded felt that God was saying to them, “I really want you to come.”  That is an annunciation! – more than just a call, an invitation.  It is being chosen.

 

We might ask ourselves:

Has God ever announced to me a desire that God wants me especially to fulfill?

Have I been open to the sudden and unexpected opportunities offered to me in an airport, on the street, at church, in my home?  Am I attuned to the voice of God?

 

 

Denise Levertov, in her poem, “Annunciation,” asks.

 

“Aren’t there annunciations

of one sort or another

in most lives?”

 

Some, she suggests, are embraced willingly or unwillingly.  But adds,

 

                                           “More often

those moments 

are turned away from

in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair

and with relief.

Ordinary lives continue.

                                  God does not smite them.

But gates close, the pathway vanishes.”

 

 

How grateful we are to Mary that she said, “Yes, to her annunciation by the angel. 

What would her life have been like if she had refused?  What gate would have been closed for her? 

Where would we be if she refused?  What pathway to God would have vanished for us?

Mary said, “Yes,” for God’s sake, for her sake, for our sake.

 

How sad, then, if we are deaf to some annunciation which God may be speaking to us.  “Gates close, the pathway vanishes.” Everyone loses.  God loses. We lose. Others who need us lose.  We turn, therefore, to Mary this day to learn from her the grace, the fear, the wonder, the excitement of being chosen by God and hearing the angel announce that through her the most amazing miracle will take place, that God will be enfleshed in her, that she will make for God the home which God did not let David fashion.  What miracles might we perform for others by saying, “Yes,” to the next annunciation God speaks to us?  May we be attentive to God’s voice and willing to respond.

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