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,
“Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?”
Some, she suggests, are embraced
willingly or unwillingly. But adds,
those moments …
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness,
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