In honor of my father’s passing, this posting is the transcript from his 2009 Advent homily.
There is a new program on television this year called GLEE. It is written by a couple of Prospect High school graduates and follows the life of a swing chorus. A lot of the storylines and characters come from actual events at Prospect. A couple of weeks ago, the cast was talking about a homeless man who slept in the Mt. Prospect bus stand or in front of the library. They called him “Patches”. If you have lived in Mt. Prospect for any length of time, you would know that he really existed. It amazed me that the writers would remember him after about 20 years. He was an insignificant person but a human being created by God for whatever task God had for him.
In today’s Gospel, we have Mary, a relatively insignificant person. She was a young girl from a small village. The way she responded to the angel, Gabriel, and even to her cousin, Elizabeth shows us that even Mary considered herself insignificant. By no means did she suffer from low self-esteem. She was just simply humble, knowing that she was from a poor family in a poor town. Mary teaches us a lesson: being from insignificant families in insignificant places does not make us insignificant. We are reminded that the idea of significance does not come from where you live or who your family is but our significance comes from God. All human life is significant, the poor, the elderly, widows and orphans, they are all significant in God’s eyes. Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin made clear that she recognized that Mary, her young cousin was significant even though she came from humble means. Regardless how insignificant Mary felt she was, the angel Gabriel came to her. Mary accepted Gabriel’s word even though this was an inconvenience for her, being young and single. She took a chance on God and agreed to go wherever he led her. We also know that her yes was not a once and for all event, but would have to be renewed many times for centuries, for all eternity.
The readings this Sunday, especially the Gospel story of Elizabeth and Mary, teach us something of God’s way of working. It seems that God has a habit, really a constant practice of choosing the weak and making them strong for carrying out His purpose. Moses tried to hide from his mission because he didn’t feel capable of carrying it out. Jeremiah cursed and swore at God, demanding to know why someone as inadequate as himself had to deliver such unpopular messages to a hostile people. When we turn to Mary, we find someone who didn’t have any reluctance in responding to God’s call, but then again, she was just a young peasant girl from a drab town, Nazareth.
God always prefers to make himself known and work through people who lack importance or status according to present day standards. If you look around, God always chooses people who have qualities of simplicity, and a positive lack of worldly sophistication or grandeur to revel himself to us. The attitude of all the main people in the story of God coming to earth shows the fact that if we don’t learn that kind of simplicity, we’ll miss the vital message that God is always trying to communicate to us. In fact, we have to divest ourselves of the desire to be superior or to look down on other people if we want to be sensitive to God’s presence and open to his purpose. We are also challenged to take a look at our own mission in life. God created us and put us in this world for a purpose. We may not be famous and as well known as world leaders or entertainers however God has a design for us. Each blade of grass, each flower, each grain of sand on the beach has a purpose. How much more are each one of us who are created in the likeness and image of God?
The difference between Mary and us is not that she was chosen and we are not. No, it is that we often decide not to take the risk and give ourselves entirely to God. We choose not to surrender our freedom or our will to him. But perhaps today we can hear once again that we are highly favored, just like Mary. God sees us as precious in His sight. He longs to have a relationship with us that is loving and complete. He wants us to experience joy, if we will but take a chance and say as Mary did, “let it be done to me as you say.”