In honor of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on December 8th in the Roman Catholic Church honoring the belief that Mary was conceived and born without sin preparing her for mission as Jesus’ mother.
Moving away from doctrine and just embracing the amazing person she was and continues to be, here is my sermonic reflection on Mary of Nazareth…woman, mother, disciple, and prophet…
Be it done to me
Were the words said by Mary…
a woman, mother, disciple, and prophet.
Mary has caused many theological headaches
as individuals try to figure out what her place is in the church.
In this space,
lets engage the Biblical texts and take another look at
Miriam of Galilee…Maria de Nazaret…Proud Mary…
as a woman, mother, disciple, and prophet.
Tradition states that Mary was about 14 or 15 when the angel visited her.
Where were we at that age…what were we doing?
It is the blurry state of middle school and high school…
A time of first dates and first kisses…
Learning to drive…
Trying to assert some independence from mom and dad.
The last thing on our minds was motherhood or parenthood.
But here, in Luke’s gospel account,
We have a teenager being asked to be the mother of GOD’s child…
Who was this Miriam? What was she like?
If we look at all 4 Gospels and Acts, we learn little tidbits about her.
Based on the texts, we know she was from Galilee, specifically Nazareth.
She was engaged to Joseph.
She was Jewish.
The writers of the biblical passages do not tell us much more.
We have glimpses into interactions with Jesus,
verses where we are told that she held things in her heart,
passages that state she was at the foot of the cross and present at Pentecost.
Based on these little blurps the redactors, editors, scribes develop a mosaic of Mary,
A woman from the barrio…a woman in la lucha.
Scholars tell us that Galilee was not a wealthy area—
It was a marginalized farming community whose harvest benefited a select elite.
Her town of Nazareth is not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures,
Reflecting its lack of importance.
From this barrio we have Miriam, who was poor and not formally educated.
She was a practicing Jew whose faith was shaped by the Covenant, the law, festivals, and stories
of her pueblo’s journey with a faithful GOD.
Miriam was a hardworker who kept a home and worked the land,
But whose family did not benefit from this work.
It is this woman,
Marginalized because of gender, class, and barrio
Who GOD chose to be a messenger.
Many see Luke’s account of the annunciation to
show a passive girl who subserviently submitted to GOD’s will.
I do not share this image for I see a mujer en la lucha…as Cubans call her, la Mambisa.
A woman who fights…is strong…takes charge…
Who does what is needed to fulfill a calling.
In Luke’s account, Maria takes charge of her life.
She does not consult rabbis or family or even her soon to be husband.
GOD presents an invitation and she accepts, period.
Her entrega is what influences Joseph in Matthew’s Gospel…
the angel tells him that Mary is already committed to the divine plan
which gives him the “umph” to say yes himself.
A reversal of what would have been common at the time, perhaps even today.
Her compassionate awareness of situations
is what maternally nudges Jesus to start His ministry at Cana.
He wanted more time…she tells him,
“Baby…you’re 30…its time now….get to it.”
Miriam’s yes reflects her faithful discipleship.
Be it done to me according to your word.
GOD’s Word that is action…that speaks…that creates and is dynamic.
The angel did not give details as to all that would take place.
Only that the SPIRIT would come upon her.
This is a pattern in many Scriptural accounts of prophetic calling
such as those of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Zachariah, and Elizabeth.
GOD calls…there is confusion and doubt…GOD clarifies somewhat…individual accepts…the SPIRIT comes upon the individual.
The prophet accepts not knowing the full details of what is to come.
Moses did not know that he would wander 40 years and not reach the Promised Land…
Abraham did not know that GOD would test his loyalty by asking for his only long awaited son as a sacrifice.
GOD does not reveal fine print or details…
perhaps the basis for the confusion many of us experience in our own vocational discernment.
Mary did not know what was to come,
Only the present invitation by the ever present GOD who walked with her pueblo.
She did not know she would be risking her life,
She would ride a donkey while 9 months pregnant,
That she would be exiled and become undocumented,
She did not know that her son would be rejected, humiliated, and executed.
Despite the not knowing…she went with it.
She took a chance…took a risk…
Got messy…and said bring it on!!
If we look at our inspirational prophetic predecessors
Hildegard, Teresa, Francis, Claire, Dorothy Day, Gandhi, MLK, Romero, Gene Robinson, Ada Maria…
They answered…they trusted…not knowing how the call would fully play out.
When we think of prophet, especially Biblically,
We think larger than life…fire…thunder…parting the Red Sea…miracles…uuuus and aahs.
Mother Teresa once said that we all are called to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.
It is not the thunder but the daily still small voice of GOD that is lived out with love.
Miriam’s prophetic calling was to be a mother…
A mother who loved her son,
taught him to be a nice Jewish boy,
through the customs, traditions, and stories of their pueblo.
She struggled to create a home for her family as a widow and single mother.
In the Gospels, her womb is praised for giving birth to Jesus…
the son reflects the mother, His actions reflect His upbringing.
Her prophetic motherhood was lived out not only with Jesus but also with the Apostles and Disciples
who needed a mom to hold, nurture, and love them when they were kicked out of their barrios, persecuted…
when life got tough for following Jesus.
This poor, marginalized, Jewish mother is an inspiration for me
in learning how to be pastorally maternal and affirming to the rejected, outcasts, and marginalized in society
because of ethnic heritage, sexual orientation or gender identity, socio-economic class.
Will we let it be done to us according to
the organic, revolutionary, evolutionary word of GOD as Mary did?
What will we respond when the angelic visitor in form of a
friend, email, mentor, TV show…in the silence of prayer…perhaps an actual angel…
Calls us to be a prophet?
We are all called to live the prophetic life…
to give birth to the Divine in our words, deeds, hearts, thoughts, and lives.
Mary lived this out by being a mother…
we are called to live it out as religious professionals, doctors, engineers,
teachers, social workers, chefs.
Mary…Miriam…Maria…la mujer del barrio…la muchacha Judia…
She took charge…said yes…embraced the messiness
of GOD’s unfolding plan with all its joy and frustration.
How have we responded?
How are we responding?
How will we respond?
To GOD’s call and invitation.
May it be done to us according to GOD’s living Word.
Paz y bendiciones always…Amen.
Feature Image from: http://almalopez.com/projects/ChicanasLatinas/lopezyolanda3.html