Homily for December 21

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

(Following the text of the homily is a widget with several musical settings of today’s gospel story of Mary and the angel Gabriel…)

Audio for homily

A good way to pray with scripture is to imagine yourself
as one of the characters in the story, in the scene,
and to ponder what you might say or do, what you might experience
from that character’s point of view as the story unfolds.

I want to share you with you just such a reflection
from writer and artist Jan Richardson.

She takes the gospel we just heard and imagines herself to be Gabriel,
the angel who comes to tell Mary she’ll be the mother of Jesus.

You might want to close your eyes and listen as if, for a few moments,
you were the angel Gabriel, just about to enter Mary’s house…

Gabriel’s Annunciation
For a moment
I hesitated
on the threshold.
For the space
of a breath
I paused,
unwilling to disturb
her last ordinary moment,
knowing that the next step
would cleave her life:
that this day
would slice her story
in two,
dividing all the days before
from all the ones
to come.

The artists would later
depict the scene:
Mary dazzled
by the archangel,
her head bowed
in humble assent,
awed by the messenger
who condescended
to leave paradise
to bestow such an honor
upon a woman, and mortal.

Yet I tell you
it was I who was dazzled,
I who found myself agape
when I came upon her—
reading, at the loom, in the kitchen,
I cannot now recall;
only that the woman before me—
blessed and full of grace
long before I called her so—
shimmered with how completely
she inhabited herself,
inhabited the space around her,
inhabited the moment
that hung between us.

I wanted to save her
from what I had been sent
to say.

Yet when the time came,
when I had stammered
the invitation
(history would not record
the sweat on my brow,
the pounding of my heart;
would not note
that I said
Do not be afraid
to myself as much as
to her)
it was she
who saved me—
her first deliverance—
her Let it be
not just declaration
to the Divine
but a word of solace,
of soothing,
of benediction

for the angel
in the doorway
who would hesitate
one last time—
just for the space
of a breath
torn from his chest—
before wrenching himself away
from her radiant consent,
her beautiful and
awful yes.

That’s a beautiful reflection, isn’t it?
But maybe like me, 
you have a hard time imagining yourself as an angel!

In the scriptures, angels are messengers from God:
they come to deliver a word, a warning or an invitation from God.
I’m not sure myself about beings dressed in flowing robes,
sporting large feathered wings
but I have no doubt that God’s always sending me messages.

If you will, God is always texting me:
sending me a word to me, giving me some warning
or inviting me, challenging me, to something  new.

These messages come to me in many ways.
Just about never through an “angel in the doorway,”
but in reflective moments of prayer,
in listening carefully to what others say,
in paying attention to my conscience,
in hearing the scriptures at Mass,
occasionally in a dream, much more often in the shower,
or when I’m just taking time to slow down and be at peace,
when, like Mary, I truly inhabit the space, the moment I’m in.

I don’t believe there’s a moment in any day or night,
whether I’m awake or asleep, that God isn’t messaging me,
speaking to me, offering me wise counsel
and inviting me to a deeper relationship with him.

And I believe the same is true for every one of us!

Of course, we’re not always tuned in.  We’re often preoccupied.
We might be too busy to listen or pay attention. 
And sometimes, we don’t even want to know
what God’s message to us might be.
But I have a hunch that at this time of year two things are true.

1) God really wants to use the Christmas season
to get a message through to each of us.
I don’t what that is for you. 
I’m getting an inkling of what it might be for me.
But I do believe God wants to use this season to get to us, and…

2) That as busy as many of us are right now,
we just might be a little more open than usual
to wondering, pondering, listening
for the message, the word, the warning,  the invitation
God may be sending us.

Mary stopped what she was doing
and listened to the angel, to the message.
She “inhabited” the moment, she lived in the moment,
not in her yesterdays, not in  her tomorrows - but in the moment.
And she heard God’s word to her, God’s amazing invitation
for her to be the Mother of the Son of God.
God’s word to each of us will be different
and the very fact that God wants to reach us is amazing in itself.

So I wonder…  will you and I find a time and place this week
to “inhabit the moment?”
to stop the busyness and listen and pray and listen some more,
maybe even to look for “an angel in the doorway.”

The Lord’s message to all of us in this moment is a word of invitation
to share at his altar and in his life in the Eucharist.

May the gift of this sacrament open us
to angels and messengers,
to words, warning, wisdom and the Lord’s invitation
to grow closer to him and our neighbor in this Christmas season.

Musical settings of Gabriel's story in today's gospel.

Gabriel's Message by austin fleming on Grooveshark


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1 comment:

  1. Glad I took this moment to read and reflect...thanks Father Austin!


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