Monday, November 24, 2014

The ordinary can make the impossible possible

St. Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[a] 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[b] 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Mother Mary is seen as ‘the’ most important personality who can lead us to God in the church and is second only to Jesus, the son of God whom she bears in her womb. Her position in the church is indeed one of importance and significance. But was she always the confident, saintly and even powerful Mother Mary as she is seen today? St. Luke throws light on a young, innocent, and ordinary Mary, whom the angel Gabriel visits. She is not the established Mother Mary but the naïve Mary.

But where is this leading us to? It leads us to two powerful images from the passage which will be of use to us as individuals and will lead to the benefit of the church and society of which we are part of. First, Mary was an ordinary girl who was chosen by God to do the extra ordinary. It is true that Mother Mary is extra ordinary for us today and we intercede to the extra ordinary St. Mary. But Mother Mary was also an ordinary girl who thought ordinary things and lived an ordinary life. Her ordinariness makes her an attractive prospect for God, because God wanted to commit the extra ordinary through her. Many of us think we are ordinary and therefore of no importance to our families, work places and churches. But isn’t it the reverse? Doesn’t our ordinariness qualify us to be God’s workers?

We all know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Today when we look at the light bulb we marvel at the great Thomas Edison. But we don’t think of that the fact that he failed 1000 or even 10,000 times before perfecting the light bulb. The Colonel who invented the formulae of Kentucky Fried Chicken went to 600 odd shops with his mix before being accepted in one. Bill Gates failed with his startup company but then went on to be one of the richest men in the world. The founder of Sheenlac Industries in Chennai, Mr. John Peter, worked a small job in the Indian Railways. J.K. Rowling the popular children’s novel writer battled depression, suicidal tendencies and poverty before becoming successful. What all this suggests is that no one is born extra ordinary, but is made extra ordinary by God. Hard work and the will to submit one’s ordinariness before God becomes more important than anything else.

Mother Mary is perplexed with the arrival of the angel and his referring to her as the favoured one. In church and society, we also feel perplexed and over awed by the situation and the work at hand. We feel that we are not extra ordinary and have no special powers and resources to help. But more than anything else, ordinariness becomes the key element for God to perform wonders. So our ordinary selves can do extra ordinary things for the church and for society.
Second, the angel tells Mary that she will bear a son and he should be named Jesus and that Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived. He then adds that “Nothing is impossible for God”. Faith becomes an integral part of our existence in church. It is not to believe in our own talents but to believe that God is capable of doing any amount of goodness and there can never be a limit to this. The church and society needs many workers who can do God’s work and God’s will. But we always step back saying I am not fit for it. The story of Mother Mary shows that there is no question of being ‘fit for the role’ but rather it is important to ‘fit into the role.’ We don’t need to be extra ordinary, extra rich or extra influential but we need to be ordinary people who are willing to heed to God’s plan to do extra ordinary things for God.

Mother Mary should be a source of inspiration for us. More than thinking of her favoured status, her blessing due to the angel visiting her and her selection by God, she starts to think of God’s unlimited possibilities and capabilities. Her fear moves out and a serene and steady confidence in God comes into her mind. It would benefit us and the church and society if we could offer our ordinary selves to God, so that God works God’s extra ordinary self. It would help the church if we stop thinking of our favoured statuses and instead look at the limitless possibilities that God offers us. Amen.

(Excerpts from the sermon preached in St. Ignatius JSO Church, K.R. Puram, Bangalore, yesterday.)
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