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Advent 4 B ~ "The Impossible" ~ Susan McGurgan, DMin


I hear a lot of homilies

and read a lot of reflections

that focus on Mary’s obedience.

Her receptivity.

Her quietness.

Her “Yes.”  

 

Most of these homilies,

of course,

are preached by men.

 

And there is no denying the fact

that Mary was indeed

Obedient.

Reflective.  

Receptive.

A woman who said, “Yes.”

 

But in our zeal to honor her--

In our desire to set her

Apart

from other women –

the model of obedience and sanctity--

Do we run the risk of overlooking

her raw courage?  

Risk turning her bold faith

into sentiment?     

Risk deconstructing her authentic humanity

and transforming it into something

abstract and remote?

 

And I wonder…

When we place a golden diadem

on her head;

When we clothe her

in silk and brocade;

When we picture Mary the Queen,  

her hands demurely folded,

eyes cast modestly down--

do we risk losing sight of her resolve?   

Her heroic embrace of the unknown?   

 

Maybe not.

Maybe those beautiful accessories

of royal power and privilege

are appropriate.

Maybe they lead us

to deeper devotion and faith.

But I wonder…

 

I wonder if sometimes,

especially during Advent and Christmas,

we reduce her determination  

to docility

and freeze her vibrant womanhood

into the static beauty of a Christmas card,

suitable for framing

or for tucking safely away

in the pages of a family Bible.

 

What if, this year,

we took the statue of Mary

off the shelf

and stood beside her?

 

What if, this year,

we set aside her jeweled crown

and took her hand,

calloused from work

and brown

from the hot Mediterranean sun?

Where would she lead us?

 

What if, this year,

we see her,

not as a medieval noblewoman,

graciously receiving a heavenly messenger

in a walled garden,

but as Mary,

a young Jewish woman

from the provincial backwaters,

who was thrust,

ready or not,

into life’s most extraordinary story?  

 

When little more than a girl,

Mary was asked to look beyond her fears,

beyond her plans

for a safe and traditional life,

and freely accept hardship,

ambiguity,

the possibility of disgrace,

in order to embrace

the most surprising

and remarkable call from God.  

 

An impossible messenger

brought an impossible message--

the stunning,  

life-overturning,

universe-exploding,  

heart-stopping,

knee-buckling,

stomach-churning

News

that she would become the God Bearer—

that she,

Mary of Nazareth,

would carry her own savior within her,

and bear his light into the world.  

 

Her response to this impossible message  

is anything but docile.

Anything but silent.

Anything but meek.

 

She didn’t fully understand,

but she said yes, anyway.

She knew this call

might lead her into danger,

but she said yes, anyway.

She knew that her fiancé  

might cast her out,

but she said yes, anyway.

She knew that her plans for the future

were smashed,

transformed into something unpredictable,

risky,

glorious,

wild…

and she said yes,

anyway.

 

She said yes,

and then lifted her voice

in a song of justice and joy,

preaching a powerful Word

of mercy and hope.   

Mary preached a vision of the God

who throws rulers from their thrones,

who scatters the proud and arrogant,

who sends the wealthy away,

empty and alone.

 

She preached of a God

who stands with the oppressed,

the disenfranchised,

the forgotten,

the hungry,

the poor.

 

She preached of salvation

and justice,

boldly claiming the promises

God made to Abraham and his descendants

for herself

and for us.

 

Her impossible message

led her into unexpected motherhood

and a quick flight into exile.  

It led to a lifetime of letting go

and learning both the heavy price

and the rich blessing of discipleship.  

 

Her impossible message

eventually led her to the foot of the Cross

and into the fire of Pentecost

and she said “Yes” to it all

because she knew that nothing,

nothing--

no matter how impossible--  

was ever impossible for God.  

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