Holy Cross, Calgary & St Aldhelm’s, Vulcan
O GOD Most High, who didst endue with wonderful virtue and grace the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Lord: Grant that we, who now call her blessed, may be made very members of the heavenly family of him who was pleased to be called the first-born among many brethren; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.
I speak to you now in the name of the ✠ Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
I have been reflecting these past few days on faithfulness, because it is something I saw demonstrated around my ordination, with so many people praying for me faithfully or donating their time to support me.
That faithfulness is where I want to go today, because today is the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and when we think of the Blessed Mother, we ought to think of two things. First, when we think of the Blessed Mother we ought always to be pointed to her holier son. But the second thing we ought to think of is her faithfulness. That is what we heard in our Gospel reading today.
Have you ever had a time in your life when God called you to be faithful? I imagine most of you do. How did you respond?
In my own life, God has called me many times, but my record is spotty at best. When I was 23, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. God called me to care for her, and I said, Okay God, with your help I’ll do it. When I was 28, God called me to be a priest. I responded, “haha, you’ve got to be kidding me.” I kept that up for a year before I finally and reluctantly said Okay, Lord, I’ll see where you’re taking me with this. Two Fridays ago, on August third, my lay presenter Erin gave me a big “I told you so,” which she had been holding onto since 2013 when she first met me and discerned the call I had been shrugging off.
Sometimes when we are called, we say yes, especially if it’s a simple call that doesn’t inconvenience us or something we think aligns with our own will and desires. When it is something different, though, something that will clearly require sacrifice or a change in our plans, we tend to be more reluctant to give our yes. I wasn’t keen because I was afraid of what I might have to give up, of the unknown and uncontrolled future if I didn’t just keep doing what I was doing.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is upheld for the great personal sacrifice she undertook. As we heard in our Gospel reading, the Archangel Gabriel came to her and said you’ve found favour with God, and you’re going to conceive a child. He goes on to talk about how wonderful this child will be, that he is the Messiah and the Son of God. And in that, it’s possible that we can miss some of the implications of this.
Mary was a virgin, and she was unmarried, though betrothed to Joseph. Perhaps today, with contemporary secular morality telling us that marriage doesn’t mean much and that pre-marital sex is perfectly fine we might make the mistake of glossing over this. Yet the reality is that Mary was risking death in this call.
If I had been Mary, l I would have heard this: “Greetings, you have found favour with God, but now your fiancé is going to have you stoned to death for adultery after you are impregnated outside of wedlock.”
Interestingly, in St Matthew’s account of the nativity, we are told that Joseph is not just a Godly man, but a kind man. Rather than having her stoned he wishes to spare her death and embarrassment to all involved by having her quietly divorced. Yet even that would have been punishment. An unmarried young woman with a child to support was not in an enviable position in first century society, let alone first century Judaism.
Despite these risks, despite these possible hardships, the Blessed Mother’s response is simple and faithful: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
St Ambrose of Milan notes that after the Archangel Gabriel had been honouring her in the annunciation to her, the Blessed Mother’s response is one of humility and service. Being exalted by God, she responds by labelling herself a servant, and submits herself to God’s will.
There are many reasons the Blessed Mother is someone we look up to. But when we think of the circumstances in which God called her, what she risked by saying yes, and the humility and faithfulness by which she responded, how can we not look to her for encouragement in our own lives?
When next God places a call on your life, consider how little you may be called to risk compared to the Blessed Mother, and consider how you will respond. Be encouraged by her humility and faithfulness, and the faithfulness of so many other Christians throughout history who have responded to God with their yes when he has called them to deeds both easy and hard. Amen.