Mary, Courage and Humility

Last week, I wrote about John the Baptist and his courage and humility. He had a fearlessness before others, but humility before the Lord. The same quality is seen in Our Lady Mary. Now bear in mind she is a teenager with no formal education. She is already betrothed to marry a man much older than her (girls were engaged by the age of twelve!). And, as we hear in the Gospel for today, Gabriel shows up to invite her to become the Mother of the Christ. What is she to do? If she becomes pregnant before the formal marriage, and Joseph refuses to recognise the child as his (Jewish fathers had to declare at the birth that this was his child), she is in mortal danger. Because the Jewish betrothal is marriage stage 1, she would be considered an adulteress and be stoned to death. Joseph, in Matthew’s Gospel, does not plan to do this but to send her back quietly to her parents. This predicament will mean she has shamed her family and her elder brother or uncle will kill her. This still happens amongst the Arabs of Palestine and no doubt elsewhere. Such knowledge should clear her mind wonderfully, and the answer would be a clear and definite ‘NO’. But she said ‘YES’!

Our Lady, like John, is fearless before the customs and culture of her day. Like John, this comes from a certainty and trust in God’s request and invitation. Gabriel is not a figment of her imagination and the request to be the Mother of the Messiah is not a teenage girl’s fantasy. It is the real thing. She is presented with the awesome responsibility of fulfilling the centuries old expectation of her people – wanting and waiting for the Messiah. On that solid information, she gives her ‘Yes’ to God. For this reason she is sometimes called The Door of Paradise, because she is the one who opens that door by which our Lord enters or world and our lives.

We will never be the biological mother of the Lord, but we need to give the same response for the Lord for him to come into our lives. God bows before the choice and will of a teenage girl. So too with us, we must make a decision and a choice – Yes or No.

 

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord,

that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary,

may by his Cross and Passion

be brought to the glory of his resurrection.

Collect for the Feast of the Annunciation

So Where is the Kid in the Crib?

As Christmas draws close, appearances of the Christmas creche is on the increase – after all it has been Christmas since September in most retail stores and supermarkets. Perhaps many of us have our Christmas decorations and Crib sets already up and that is OK – but why not in the parish church? It is because we have a definite season of preparation for the great feast – Advent. So, this no different to the celebration of Easter with Lent as the time of getting ready. In our world of instant gratification, preparation does not exist. However, do we eat the wedding cake at the engagement? Do we have a wake before the person has died? Do we eat Hot Cross buns at Christmas (Mind you, Coles would like that)? So, despite the commercial world the Church has this distinct season, in which the visual focus in the is the Advent Wreath, that marks off the Sundays leading up to Christmas. Neither do we sing the Glory be to God on High during this time as we will sing it with Angels of Bethlehem at Christmas. It is also why we avoid Christmas carols during Advent. So, no kid in the crib, but wait for Christmas, and it will be there all January!

John the Baptist Courage and Humility 2

John the Baptist walks out of the Judean wilderness, just like the great prophet Elijah, and he even dresses like him. No one would mistake John for anyone but as Elijah returned. That meant one thing, announcing and preparing for the arrival of the Messiah. So, John is a disturbing figure who cannot be ignored. We will see this in next week’s Gospel reading, as a delegation from the chief priests in Jerusalem comes to interrogate John to find out what he is up to? They were concerned that John might be the Messiah.

John exhibits two apparently contradictory qualities; humility and fearlessness. His courage is seen in his fearless preaching repentance and purification to the people. To be gathered in readiness for the appearance of God through his Messiah. He is courageous because no one has a hold on him, – he has no wife, children or land. Even his right to be priest, like his father he has put aside – so no one owns him and he owns nothing. The only thing than can be taken away from him is his life and he is prepared to give that away too!

So where does humility fit into this courage? His courage is in his confidence and trust in being the appointed forerunner of the Messiah – in this task he is single-minded and intrepid. Yet he also knows he is a servant of God and of his Messiah. Before God, he is humble. This humility is not a grovelling but an awareness of who he is and Whom is Lord – the Lord of and Master of his life.

This humility is seen in the saints. Saint Francis is a good example of this mixture of courage and humility that comes from the Kingdom of Heaven. We see it also in the young girl who will be the Mother of the Christ. Mary as young teenager has the courage to say “Yes” to God. That yes could have ended her life if Joseph declared that her Child was not his. Like John she has a confidence that she has been called to be the servant of the Lord. Yet she describes herself in her prayer of praise addressed to God as “the lowly handmaid”.

We need to seek this double quality of the Kingdom for ourselves. We are the Lord’s brothers and sisters, redeemed by his love and compassion – yet we are also his servants now and for ever.

 

O God, who didst send thy messenger, John the Baptist, to be the forerunner of the Lord, and to glorify thee by his death: Grant that we, who have received the truth of thy most holy Gospel, may bear our witness thereunto, and after his example and aided by his prayers, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord…

Collect for the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

John the Baptist Courage and Humility

John the Baptist walks out of the Judean wilderness, just like the great prophet Elijah, and he even dresses like him. No one would mistake John for anyone but as Elijah returned. That meant one thing, announcing and preparing for the arrival of the Messiah. So, John is a disturbing figure who cannot be ignored. We will see this in next week’s Gospel reading, as a delegation from the chief priests in Jerusalem comes to interrogate John to find out what he is up to? They were concerned that John might be the Messiah.

John exhibits two apparently contradictory qualities; humility and fearlessness. His courage is seen in his fearless preaching repentance and purification to the people. To be gathered in readiness for the appearance of God through his Messiah. He is courageous because no one has a hold on him, – he has no wife, children or land. Even his right to be priest, like his father he has put aside – so no one owns him and he owns nothing. The only thing than can be taken away from him is his life and he is prepared to give that away too!

So where does humility fit into this courage? His courage is in his confidence and trust in being the appointed forerunner of the Messiah – in this task he is single-minded and intrepid. Yet he also knows he is a servant of God and of his Messiah. Before God, he is humble. This humility is not a grovelling but an awareness of who he is and Whom is Lord – the Lord of and Master of his life.

This humility is seen in the saints. Saint Francis is a good example of this mixture of courage and humility that comes from the Kingdom of Heaven. We see it also in the young girl who will be the Mother of the Christ. Mary as young teenager has the courage to say “Yes” to God. That yes could have ended her life if Joseph declared that her Child was not his. Like John she has a confidence that she has been called to be the servant of the Lord. Yet she describes herself in her prayer of praise addressed to God as “the lowly handmaid”.

We need to seek this double quality of the Kingdom for ourselves. We are the Lord’s brothers and sisters, redeemed by his love and compassion – yet we are also his servants now and for ever.

Grant, we beseech thee Almighty God,

that thy family may walk in the way of salvation:

that following the teaching of thy holy Forerunner, Saint John,

we may attain in safety to him he foretold,

thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord…

Collect for the Feast of Saint John the Baptist