22 December 2005

Mary's hymn, her homily...

4thWeek of Advent (Thurs): I Sam 1.24-28; Luke 1.46-56
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

Herald, immaculate vessel, handmaid, most blessed among women, bearer of the Word, preacher of God’s grace, Mother of our salvation! At the invitation and assurance of the angel, Gabriel, Mary submits herself to the work of the Lord in her and becomes her Son’s first disciple, the first preacher of the gospel.

Our Blessed Mother preaches with a hymn of praise while visiting the mother of John the Baptist. Elizabeth tells Mary that her child, John, leapt in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice, and Elizabeth blesses Mary. Both Mary and Elizabeth are blessed because the Lord took their trust and made them wondrous signs of His power and favor. Elizabeth, barren with age, and Mary, a virgin, are both pregnant—one with the herald of the Christ and the other with the Christ Himself.

Mary’s hymn of praise, her homily of thanksgiving to the Lord is more than a pious exaltation, more than an explosion of devotional feeling. Mary’s hymn, her homily is a potent witness, an authoritative proclamation of Who the Lord Is for us, Who the Lord Will Be for us always. Mary’s witness is not just about the miracle of her virginal womb giving life to the Christ Child; her witness is about the constant presence and work of God in His creation from Day One, about the enduring love and forgiveness He has shown His people since their creation. Mary’s hymn, her homily is a sung testament to all those moments in human history where the Lord has put His hand into events and shaped them, put His hand into our time for our benefit—to call us back, to call us forward, to call us away from rebellion, despair, anxiety, sin.

Mary’s hymn, her homily is a sung record of salvation history, more than just a recitation of events, it is a lyric, a poem to the unfolding plan of God for us—one moment in a particular time to reveal all time to us. Mary reveals a divine attitude, a divine vision for all creation, all human life. Her intimate contact with the Spirit of the Lord has exalted her soul, magnified her spirit—enlarged, expanded, widened, made great her understanding of His plan. He is mercy, strength, justice, abundance. He is merciful, strong, just, generous. He wipes away our sins, defends the weak against the strong, balances debt and forgiveness, distributes freely everything that is good, holy, true, and beautiful. Our Lord is All: all we need, all we want; everything we have or can be is His. With gratitude we will lay claim to His legacy for us, and we will flourish in the blessings that flow from our humility.

Advent is a season of promises, made and fulfilled. The promise of the coming of the Lord: the promise made to Abraham and the promise fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. Mary took the word of an angel that her virginal womb would bear a son, the Savior promised by the Prophets. Elizabeth, barren in her old age, also believed a promise and gave the world Christ’s herald. These last few days of Advent are days of promise, the expectation—the sure knowledge—that our Father will be with us, Emmanuel, Mighty God, Merciful King. At the fulfillment of His promise, we can sing with our Blessed Mother: “Our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord; our spirits rejoice in God our savior!”

Greet our Savior in his mother’s womb, in his manger, on the mountain, in the desert, greet him on the sorrowful way, on the cross, greet him and thank him for keeping his advent promise, his promise of mercy. Then, then we are mighty witnesses, authoritative testaments to the power and favor of our God in our lives. Sing your witness! Don’t whisper. Proclaim your promise! Don’t mutter.
Make known the mercy God has done for you.

20 December 2005

Make him flesh and bone...

4th Week of Advent (Tues): Is 7.10-14; Luke 1.26-38
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

How will you (we) announce the arrival of the Lord to the world?

John the Baptist is the ardent herald of the Christ Child’s coming. Gabriel, sent by God to Mary, announces the presence of the Lord. And Mary, her troubled spirit settled by the prophetic words of the angel, becomes the gospel’s first preacher, her Son’s first disciple.

John heralds the Lord’s advent. Gabriel proclaims His presence. And Mary brings him into flesh. John comes before, out of the desert waste, to wash the willing hearers of his words clean with water baptism. Gabriel, dispatched by God to Nazareth, comes to Mary, a virgin, with a frightful greeting: “The Lord is with you.” And Mary, made anxious by the angelic greeting, questions the Lord’s messenger, hears his word, and comes to the Lord accepting of her purpose, given over wholly to His plan. John heralds his coming. Gabriel proclaims his arrival. Mary gives him flesh and bone.

How will you (we) announce the arrival of the Lord to the world?

The Annunciation in Luke’s gospel is a moment of historic convergence. Look at the characters in this drama: God Himself, the Archangel Gabriel, King David, Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist. Look at the action: Mary’s humble acceptance of the announcement of her motherhood and the Incarnation of the Son of God, his arrival in the flesh among us. Look at the consequences: the salvation of all creation, the commencement of our graced lives toward holiness, toward perfection in Him.

This is the beginning of our end.

Not our demise. But our purpose, our goal, the last moment we are enslaved by sin. At Mary’s yes, we are freed. Mary preaches, “May it be done to me according to your word.” And it was. And now we rejoice and give thanks to our Mother for her generosity, her humility, and her last sacrifice.

How will you (we) announce the arrival of the Lord to the world? John heralds the Lord. Gabriel proclaims his presence. Mary gives him flesh.

If we will herald the arrival of the Lord, we will not run from the hard moments of witness, those difficult times when speaking about Christ to others puts us clearly on the outside. We will firmly, boldly, even dramatically herald the Lord’s coming against any and all opposition, never bending to political or cultural expediency, and never counting the costs of speaking his word.

If we will proclaim the presence of the Lord, we will live now our eternal lives yet to come; we will live the perfection we are promised, fully aware of our failings and celebrating God’s rich mercy. We will be messengers of the Spirit, vehicles of the Lord’s gifts, the media of grace. And we will exude trust in the Lord, outshining every anxiety, every fear.

If we will give flesh and bone to the Lord, we will become Christ for others. We will take seriously our progress in holiness, our growth into the divine, preaching and teaching what Christ preached and taught. We will say to God, “May it done to me according to your word” and we will become that Word, spoken and made flesh, preached aloud and taught in action.

Herald his coming. Proclaim his presence. Make him flesh and bone. Giving yourself wholly to His Word.