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Mary and her Impossible Dream

December 22, 2008
[The following homily was preached by Rev. Mr. Christopher Valka, C.S.B., in Las Cruces, New Mexico on December 8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Chris is a Basilian Deacon in the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico (USA). He worked for two years at Salt and Light Television Network as he completed his theological studies for the priesthood. He was ordained deacon in October 2008 in Toronto, and will be ordained a priest in Houston, Texas in May 2009. The homily was inspired by Megan McKenna, who has had a strong influence on Chris' pastoral ministry, homilies and teaching.]
bvm.jpgIf you read back far enough in the ancient Jewish customs, you will discover that there is a belief among the Jewish people -- that long before time began, God was lonely and didn’t have anyone to tell stories to – so God made us.
It was believed then, that the history of the world is the stories of God coming to reality.
As Christians, we too have heard many stories – some we believe and some we don’t. Often, we believe these stories when we are young, but as we grow older, we pick them apart under pretenses of logic and analysis. When we are young, we loved the impossible for in it was adventure and imagination – and it seemed to conjure in us a belief that we could do anything.
Somewhere along the way to adulthood, we change, we shift, from loving what is impossible to finding security in and appreciate what is merely possible.
But every year about this time – during the season of Advent and Christmas, we are called to listen afresh to these old stories that re-charge our imagination, leaving us wide-eyed and hopeful. We are asked to become children once again – but this time, aware and awakened – to believe in the outrageous. To believe in the miracles of God that have happened, and I would argue, continue to happen.
You see the stories of this season are the stories that God has been trying to tell us since the very beginning of creation.
Nothing is impossible with God.
In Luke’s Gospel: Mary speaks for all us – she is our model of discipleship – but before she answers “Yes” she, like all of us, asks “how”. To this the Gabriel explains, as God has been explaining to us since the beginning of time, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
This is a season when we are asked to become like little children once again – not so we can dreams of sugarplums dancing in our heads, but so that we can once again become captivated by the impossible promises of God.
In the second reading, we hear from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. We read that God chose us from before the foundation of the world.
We are chosen by God to be holy, to give praise and to dwell in God’s will. How difficult this is – how many of us feel that God is hidden, that God cannot possibly be paying attention because if God was, then surely so many of the events of our day that have come to pass would never have happened.
I assure you God is here – but among the many lessons we learn from Mary, Joseph and those with them who welcomed Christ into the world, is that God is welcomed by those who are willing to believe the impossible.
You see, too many of us are blinded and deafened by logic – by probability – limited by what is possible. Where are the dreamers? Who are those who live in hope and faith?
You notice that the Angel did not appear in Jerusalem. God did not ask a person of status or responsibility to be the Ark of the New Covenant – God chose the poor. It is among the widows and orphans, the migrants, prisoners, and the oppressed where we find the dreamers of our world. This is their gift to us – and if we are willing, they can open our eyes to the miracles of God.
Think about Mary – this poor child – who believes the most impossible of stories. She is told that Elizabeth, an old woman, is now pregnant – that’s hard to believe. She believes that she, Mary, a virgin, has conceived a child. That’s a little harder to believe. That her child is going to be human and the child of God too. That’s still harder to believe. That her son is going to be killed for preaching the good news and then be raised from the dead. That’s even harder to believe. And we are told that believing this story and living in relationship with God because of Christ’s resurrection and our baptism, we can have eternal life – that is hard to believe too – but that is how the story goes.
Mary believed the impossible. You can almost imagine her looking at the Angel Gabriel, humbled by the mystery and yet confident in God’s promise, saying, “Tell God I say Yes”
In our baptism, we join the countless believers before and around us – We are the servants of the Lord, let it be done according to your word. What a story!
But the impossible does not end with Mary; rather, the impossible lives on through us – if we let it. Too often, we think – what difference does my belief make? What difference can my life make? I am just one person among millions.
If you are one those – and I imagine deep down, most of us are – I would like to tell you another story:
“Once upon a time there were two birds sitting on a branch of a tree. One was a dove and the other was a sparrow. They were sitting and talking about all the things that were going on in the world. They had heard stories from all over as they migrated and visited with other birds, and they were exchanging the news. Then, as was their habit, they began to discuss philosophy, theology and politics. But after a while they became bored with that.
Then it began to snow. It was the kind of snow that brought fat, fluffy flakes. The dove looked at the sparrow and asked, “Do you know how much a snowflake weighs?”
The sparrow thought about it a while and said, “No, I never thought about it.”
“Well,” said the dove, “I think it weighs nothing more than nothing. I mean look at the snow floating down, these fat, soft, fluffy flakes.”
The sparrow thought about it and said, “If you think a snowflake weighs nothing more than nothing, I have a little story to tell you. Once when I was sitting on a branch, just like this one, I didn’t have anything to do. It started to snow, so I began counting snowflakes – fat and fluffy ones just like these. I counted a lot, a couple of hundred, a couple of thousand. I got up to one million, eight hundred and forty-six thousand, six hundred and twenty-two snowflakes. And then one snowflake – which you say weighs nothing more than nothing – floated down, landed on my branch and it cracked straight through. The branch went falling to the ground and I had to fly off.”
With that, after telling his story, the sparrow flew off.
The dove sat there trying to figure it out when suddenly it dawned on her. One snowflake, one person, when added to all the others, may be the one that makes all the difference in the world.
What if we, who are nothing alone, are the difference between the way the world is now and the coming of peace? Today we celebrate Mary and the impossible dream she was willing to believe. What will we tell the Angel to say to God?
This season, let us dream about a world, a community where God is no longer hidden from anyone. Let us put aside what is merely possible and play in the impossible – for it is so much more interesting.
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