Homily for the Feast of the Virgin Mary

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Texts: Isa. 61:10-11, Psalm 34, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 1:46-55

The Lord has a way of choosing unlikely people who aren’t great in the world’s eyes to work his great purposes on earth. He chooses Moses, a stuttering runaway murderer to deliver his people from Egypt. He chooses a small shepherd boy by the name of David to become the King of Israel. God has a habit of choosing those who may be overlooked, of those who are weak and needy, to be the ones who carry out his plans.

 

Yesterday was the Feast of the Virgin Mary. Some us may be afraid of Mary because of the notion that Catholics “worship” her. Because some may have abused her place in God’s redemptive plan, others may not want to honor her. However, Mary is someone to whom we can look for many reasons. One is because God chose her to be the Mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Not because of her power or might but precisely because she was lowly and poor so that his power could be manifest. And because she continuously points away from herself to the Lord and his mighty works.

Mary was likely poor and had little power. She sings in our Gospel text that God has looked upon her humble, or poor, estate. Scripture does not tell of Mary having an influential family, of her being the daughter of a high priest. She is a young girl, of low status, who probably wasn’t regarded highly in her community. In today’s world, she would probably be the teenager who’s serving us McDonald’s. Someone we don’t really pay attention to, who we may even look down on.

But it is this girl that God chooses to bear his Son Jesus Christ. He chooses her, in the “fullness of time,” to birth the long expected Messiah of Israel. And when he does, she does not ask many questions, other than “How can this be” in Luke 1:34. Rather, she sings out in faith to God rejoicing that he has chosen her, not because of any merits or worthiness on her part, not because she was powerful, but rather out of his steadfast love.

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Are we like Mary? Do we rejoice when the Lord comes to us? Are we, like Mary, waiting for our Savior, waiting for God to work his salvation in not only our lives, but the lives of others? Do we turn to God, giving him praise and glory, rather than feeling smug that he has chosen us? I know sometimes my pride will make me want to take the credit from God or to think that it’s something in me that has made God favor me. When you consider the blessings God has given you, do you see it in the light of what you’ve done or do you praise God for the grace he has given?

Do we believe that God uses those things and people we may not like? Those people who we, in our pride, think aren’t worth our time or are different from us?

Martin Luther writes in his commentary on the Magnificat,

Even now and to the end of the world, all God’s works are such that out of that which is nothing, worthless, despised, wretched, and dead, he makes that which is something, precious, honorable, blessed, and living. On the other hand, whatever is something, precious, honorable, blessed, and living, he makes to be nothing, worthless, despised, wretched, and dying

He turns things upside down. Luther goes on to say of Mary
the Holy Spirit taught her this deep insight and wisdom, that God is the kind of Lord who does nothing but exalt those of low degree and put down the mighty from their thrones, in short, break what is whole and make whole what is broken”

God is a God who breaks what is whole and makes whole that is broken. Do we actually believe this? Do you believe that God will take the broken things in your life–maybe a relationship, a sickness, a financial situation–and make it whole again? Or are you trying desperately to glue the pieces together, constantly grasping at straws? I know sometimes I try to tightly grasp the breaking pieces rather than give them to him. But, he is a Lord who lifts from the ashes and makes new life. He is the one who can make life out of death, to create out of nothing.

Mary goes on to sing that “all generations will call me blessed.” She sings this in response to the previous line that “God has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” She is blessed, and will be called blessed, because God has regarded her.  Note that she does not say people will say all sorts of good things about her, praise her virtues, exalt her virginity or her humility, or sing of what she has done. But it is only because God regarded her—that is why people will call her blessed.

And likewise, God regards us in our lowly estate. It is to us, lowly sinners, to whom her Son, Jesus Christ comes. We, slaves under the law, slaves to sin, people who have no right or claim on anything of God’s, we are the ones to whom Jesus comes, to make coheirs with him in an eternal Kingdom. While we were stuck in the depths of sin, unable to save ourselves, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ to rescue us. Not through might and power that we would expect but by the birth of a poor girl in a manger. He gave up his rights, he emptied himself, so that we, poor sinful beggars, could inherit the Kingdom of God through his work. Not because of our works, our connections, or our earthly powers.

Do we consider ourselves blessed because of this or because of the things God has given us? Do we trust that he has chosen us even when life is filled with pain, loss, and anguish? Just because God chose Mary does not mean her life was easy. Getting pregnant as a teenage girl in the Middle East at that time and claiming God did it probably was not the easiest task. And Simeon prophesies in Luke 2:35 that a sword will pierce through Mary’s soul. Her heart will break as she watches her Son, Jesus, be mocked, beaten, and crucified.

Finally, like Mary, do we remember God’s works not only for us but for his people?

Mary praises God for the things he has done for her, exalting him for his mercy and justice. But she does not stop here. She goes on to sing of how he exalts the lowly and humbles the proud. She declares how he cares for the poor and the hungry and works justice against those who are proud and greedy. His faithfulness is not only in this one moment with Mary but has been shown throughout generations.

And his faithfulness is seen in the person of her son, Jesus Christ. The long-awaited Messiah of his servant Israel, the one of whom God spoke in the Old Testament, comes, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to Mary, and to us. He comes, expected but in the most unexpected of ways. And he came not only to save Israel but, as he says in John 12:32 to be lifted up, upon the cross, to draw all nations to himself. To draw Americans, Mexicans, Kurds, Arabs, Filipinos, Germans, and Jews.

And He continues to come to us, in the most unexpected of ways, through the Sacrament of Holy Communion. He comes to feed us, poor, bedraggled people (whether we know we are or not) at his table. Not because we have everything together. No, he comes to us, like he did the virgin Mary, in our mess, by faith. And he sustains us not just so we can feel better about ourselves but so we can proclaim his good news to the world! He comes so that we may have life and to share that life with our neighbor. So today, let us partake of his body and blood, let our souls magnify the Lord, to all people. Like Mary, let us wait for him by faith, and sing his praises to all people, all generations, until he comes again. Amen.

 

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