09 December 2013

Mary's Dangerous Yes

NB. My very first I.C. homily. . .2005:
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Gen 3.9-15, 20; Eph 1.3-6, 11-12; Luke 1.26-38
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Madonna Hall, University of Dallas
It is the most dangerous announcement ever made: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” The angel Gabriel, sent by God to Mary, greets the virgin by telling her that she is most graced, wholly blessed, chosen, and attended by the Lord. Very, very dangerous. And Mary knew this: “But she was greatly troubled…” Greatly troubled?! Troubled…and wise. Mary pondered the angelic greeting with dread. She understood that this particular, unique grace picked her out of all God’s creatures. She understood that receiving an angel from the Lord meant a mission, a purpose beyond a mortal end, a life for her of singular graces, an honored life of doing the Father’s will for His glory. Dangerous? You bet!

Mary is being asked by the Lord to serve as bearer of the world’s salvation, the vessel of the Word, and the Mother of a nation redeemed. Saying yes to this places her at that moment in time, that instant of human history where the Divine takes on flesh, sets out toward selfless sacrifice, and heals us all. In her ministry to all creation, the virgin gives her body, her will, for the rest of us so that the Infinite Word might speak Itself as a Finite Word and gather us together into a single heart, a single mind, one voice in witness to the mercy and forgiveness of the Lord.[1] She is the mother of our salvation, the perfected vessel of our eternal healing. Mary is a preacher of the gospel, the first preacher of the Word—the most dangerous job there is.

When we took on the responsibility of bearing the Word to the world—when we became preachers—we took on the dangers of opposing all that the world worships as good. Speaking the Word of Truth against the Lie riles up the worst resentments and the most violent frustrations of those in the world who resent Mary’s Yes, who resent the gift of the Christ Child, and who turn their faces against his invitation to participate in the Divine Life. The danger for us here is twofold: 1) that we are punished as the causes of the resentment and frustration among those who reject the Word and 2) that we succumb to the temptation to see these people as hopeless, beyond reach, and deserving of temporal punishment. The first—that we are blamed—is becoming common enough. The second—our judgment of others—is scandalously common and unworthy of the virgin-child who made our own Yes possible.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is first a celebration of the Incarnation of the Son of God as man. Mary’s dangerous Yes to God prepares the way of the Lord, make possible his advent in creation, and establishes her as the first preacher of the Word. Her clean conception in the womb of her mother points us unswervingly to God’s mercy, unswervingly to God’s invitation to bear His Word to the world with unyielding charity, steely will, and the mercy of truth.

We can meet the dangers of violent opposition and avoid the dangers of judging others by submitting ourselves in both cases to the ministry of the handmaid: “Lord, let your will be done in me according to your Word.”

[1] See Prayer, Hans Urs von Balthasar, 157.

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  1. It was fun to read this blast from the past! Earnestness, yes? A little edgy? I liked the intensity you built in the first paragraph, which left me wanting more, and, yes, I had to read this one out loud. I laughed at "steely will", because my accent is no longer very Southern so it was hard to say until I just gave in and "spoke Southern". Thanks for posting :-)!

  2. Anonymous6:36 PM

    Hello! His Reverand Father.Everytime i' m very curious about that how Our Lady was sure that the body who speaks him isn't a trap or angel-like incarnation of devil.For example if it was me instead of Our Lady ,my first reactions would be saying the name of Our Lord and sprinkling blessed water on this body to be sure ,but Our Lady said 'Fiat' with whole obedience and undoubtfulness.How did she understand that this body is from The God,not from devil?