One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

November 21, 2007

For the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 21 November

[It is not my turn in the monastery today to preach. So, rather than a new homily, here is the homily I posted last year.]

Luke 1:26-38

The Church, asking God’s inspiration, decided which writings were holy Gospels and which writings were true to the New Testament.
So, we have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John— and the rest of the authentic New Testament.
Among the writings the Church did not include was a story about the early life of Mary.
That story is what the Church, nonetheless, commemorates today: Mary’s parents presenting her to God in the Temple when she was three years old.
The spiritual truth in the story is that God has a plan for our salvation; and, in his plan, he set Mary apart and prepared her for a special participation.
In the True Gospel, we first see Mary receiving a title from God.
“Hail, Fully Graced One!”
It is a title that belongs by right to God alone.
The Bible gives the title to no one else.
Mary is rightly troubled to hear God’s messenger give the title to her.
“Hail, Fully Graced One!”
The heavenly Father in his grace has fully prepared Mary to be the mother of his Son.
Yet, she is a virgin.
So, she asks, “How can this be?”
The angel tells her.
“The Holy Spirit, the Power of the Most High, will come and overshadow you.”
The plan, however, waits for one thing.
The plan of God waits for Mary to say, “Yes.”
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord— may it be done to me according to your word.”
The plan of God and the power of God come and overshadow our human impossibilities.
In the case of Mary, the impossibility is that of a virgin becoming a mother.
The wondrous thing is that God does not challenge the impossibility by his power alone.
He comes with power waiting for us to say, “Yes.”
So, the impossibility is overcome by both God’s power and our willingness.
So, the virgin conceives and bears the Son of God.
In the same way, sinners become sons and daughters of God.
God comes with power to us in our sinful impossibility— but he waits for us to say, “Yes.”
Today in the Church, we celebrate the plan of God that Mary participated in.
In the presence of God’s angel, Mary stood in Nazareth as the representative of all human flesh and all human nature.
She stood in Nazareth as the representative of our whole race and our whole history.
She stood for us under the shadow and power of the Spirit of God.
By the power of the Holy Spirit and the collaboration of her own human consent, Mary conceived God the Son of the Heavenly Father.
This is the pattern for the gracious work of God throughout history and throughout our lives: a collaboration between God’s power and our free consent.
Christ is God the Eternal Son in flesh and blood by the power of the Holy Spirit.
He is also the flesh and blood of Mary’s “yes”.
He is the flesh and blood of a human “yes” to God.
The impossibility of a virgin conceiving and the impossibility of us sinners becoming sons and daughters of God— human impossibilities meet the power of God— and the power of God awaits a human “yes.”
The same plan, the same pattern, is true in the Eucharist.
It is impossible for bread and wine to become the real body and blood of Christ.
Yet, the power of God most high overshadows this impossibility, and the Church offers its human “yes” and “amen.”
As Mary was willingly present to the power of God, we accept the Church’s invitation this day to present ourselves willingly to God here in his Temple.
As Mary herself announces in the Gospel, “God who is mighty has done great things for me,” so in this church God who is mighty is doing great things for us.

That God Be Glorified in All


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