In our first reading today, the Lord gives Nathan a fairly long message to deliver to David. He makes David a series of promises ending with “your throne shall stand firm forever.” Remember, this is the same David who had one of his men killed so he could have the man’s wife for himself. David’s closet was full of skeletons. But here’s God telling him that he’s going to be a mighty king and that his kingdom will last forever.
Even in David’s time, everybody knew that no kingdom could last forever. It’s still true today. But the Lord wasn’t talking about an earthly kingdom.
Fast forward to today’s Gospel, Luke’s famous telling of the Annunciation. It’s a beautiful story and one we’ve all heard many times. Right in the middle of the story the angel tells Mary “the Lord God will give him (meaning Mary’s unborn Son) the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
There it is again; “The promise of a never-ending kingdom”. We know today that the angel is talking about a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. Poor Mary doesn’t know what to think. Her response is, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
I want to stop here for just a minute. When I was first in formation for the diaconate, about fifteen years ago, I went to a two-day workshop on the Gospel of Luke. The speaker was Father Eugene La Verdier, an expert of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, which was also written by Luke. He spent the entire first morning talking to us about this Gospel passage.
Obviously I can’t tell you everything he said, but the gist of it was this. Everything about Mary was small. She lived in a very small town, Nazareth which was part of a very small province called Galilee. To the people of Jesus’ time, Nazareth was kind of a back-water place, definitely not the kind of place that would give birth to the Messiah.
Then there’s Mary herself. She’s a young girl from a small town. She’s still a virgin. In Mary’s society women were definitely second class citizens. But married women at least had the prestige of their husbands. Unmarried women were the lowest rung on the social ladder. Aside from the biology of the thing, the idea of a young, single woman, a nobody in the Jewish society of that time, giving birth to such a mighty king was unprecedented. “How can this be since I’m no more important than a good donkey or camel?”
Remember that Mary was engaged to Joseph. Surely she intended to have children. The idea that one of them might become a king was far-fetched but not impossible. Her response only makes sense if we look at it as a sign of humility. “How can someone as lowly as me give birth to a king?”
What I’m suggesting to you is this. The Son of God was born of a woman; an unmarried woman from a small, insignificant place. The idea that she would give birth to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God was outrageous. But Mary was chosen by God. Jesus was the only person in history to have chosen His own mother. He didn’t choose someone wealthy. He didn’t choose someone powerful. He didn’t choose a queen. Any of those choices would have made it much easier for Him to perform His ministry.
He chose Mary. He chose Mary to show you and me that with God anything is possible. He chose her to give us encouragement. If this lowly girl could be His mother, then you and I shouldn’t be afraid to tackle anything. He chose her to show us how we should respond to God’s call just as he chose David to be a mighty king in spite of his past sins.
You and I may think we can never change the world. We’re just not important enough. Or maybe we think we’re too sinful. But the stories of David and Mary prove that we’re wrong. In just a few days we’ll celebrate the birth of our Savior. It’s not just a day revolving around gifts and food. It’s a day to remember that Jesus was born for us; to save us from our sins. It’s a day to ponder our part in salvation history. What can I do to repay such a remarkable gift? What does God have in mind for me. It’s a day for us, just like Mary, to say, “Let it be done to me according to your will.”
Time and again you have shown your generosity to others. Your response to our Christmas gift drive was outstanding. As you celebrate your own Christmas, take a moment to remember that some poor child is having a merrier Christmas because of your donated gifts.
After mass today (tomorrow) we’ll decorate the church for Christmas. We’ll have more poinsettias than ever before thanks to the generosity of our members who donated to our flower fund. Our Christmas visitors will be very impressed.
During the year you’ve helped with other collections for those less fortunate than we are. We may be a small community, but together we get things done. That’s what discipleship is all about. In the coming year, I hope that we can all work together to spread the Gospel to more people. There are plans in the works to build our attendance and to increase our revenue. Saint John Nepomuk Chapel has a special place in the hearts of people all over Saint Louis and throughout the nation and the world. We recently received a check from a lady from Florida, a non-Catholic lady by the way, who heard about our broken window and wanted to help.
There’s a Czech organization in Cleveland that sends us a check every year for Christmas. We regularly have visitors from other cities who attend mass here. You may not be aware that we often give tours to out-of-town groups visiting Saint Louis.
You and I are part of God’s plan. He has something He wants each of us to do. It’s up to us to respond, like Mary. In a few minutes we’ll all say together, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”