Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2009. Ken Hughes, SJ

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2009.  Ken Hughes, SJ


The prophet Micah begins his prophecy this morning with the words, “You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah,  too small to be among the clans of Judah.” Yes –  too small to be a royal town.

In the Gospel, we meet Elizabeth, -- too old, -- too old to bear a child.

We encounter Mary, -- too young, -- too young to be the Mother of God.

Today, two babies will be baptized, -- too tiny – too tiny to witness to our faith. 

Too small, too old, too young, too tiny!


And for the rest of us?  As we approach Christmas, there is too little time to write Christmas cards and buy gifts, too little time to decorate the house and cook food.  Too little time.

And, if you have been shopping,  you have noticed that there are too few parking spaces at the malls and shopping centers, and, let’s face it, we have too little money to buy what we would really like to buy.  Too few, too little.


As a church community, we have too few people to clean and decorate the church, prepare liturgies and prayer services, too few to visit all the shut-ins and sick.  And  our resources are too small to provide adequate food  for the hungry and the homeless.  Too few, -- too small.


Whether two thousand years ago or today, we are confronted with much limitation: too small, too old, too young, too tiny, too few, too little.  Just this past week we have to acknowledge that the health care bill still does not cover enough people nor will the Copenhagen Conference have done enough for our environment.   Is there anything from two thousand years ago that can help us today as we reflect on and deal with these issues?


I see two lessons for our learning:


First.  God can do marvels with too small, too old, too young, too little, too few,  when that little is completely available for God to work with.    Twice in our second reading from The Letter to the Hebrews the author says, “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”  And Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” 


What seemed to be totally inadequate became fruitful in abundance when placed fully in the hands of God.  Bethlehem-Ephrathath did become a royal town.  Elizabeth did give birth to a son in her old age.  Mary did become the mother of our Lord and Savior.  Babies have witnessed to faith as we will see in the slaughter of the holy innocents.  Nothing and no one is too limited for God to use in the story of salvation, if only who we are and what we have is given over fully to God!   That is a big, “if only.”  It is a call to surrender and trust.


But do we know see with our own eyes that the too few people and the too little resources of this community do provide sustaining prayer, music and beauty to nourish the faith life of this community and do touch and support so many in the wider community?   Surrender and trust


The second lesson is that we need one another.  Mary and Elizabeth needed one another to grasp more fully the mystery taking place within them.   John and Jesus  need one another to bring into the open the inrushing of God’s Kingdom.  We and God need one another. 


Without God we accomplish nothing significant.  But, without our hands and hearts, our words and actions, God’s power is limited.  And we, in this community, need one another.  Our faith needs support.  Our hopes need support.  Our love needs support.  Praying alone, working alone, is not enough.  True, it is an effort to come together, but, in some mysterious way, we return to our homes and daily life strengthened. Together, we give life beyond our numbers.


Smallness and togetherness.  Let us rejoice that we have both here at St. Mary of the Angels.  Let us rejoice in the marvels that God has worked through this blessed community!   Let us celebrate this mystery of smallness and togetherness in the Eucharist we are about to receive, --the Eucharist, so small, yet holding divinity, -- so small, but bringing us together into communion, into community. 


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