Yesterday morning I attended Mass at Christ the King church in Minneapolis, where the presider was Fr. Dale Korogi, pastor of the that parish. The Gospel for the Mass was one I’ve prayed with and spoken about often – Luke’s account of the Annunciation.
Fr. Dale began his sermon by relaying an experience that occurred as he was leaving the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he had been studying for five years. As he was walking out of the foyer of the building for one of the last times about to return to begin priestly duties in the US, he said to the older priest who had been a mentor of his, “I can’t believe it is over.” The priest turned to him and said, “No it is only beginning. Then this wisdom figure put his hands on Fr. Dale’s shoulders and, looking him in the eyes, said, “You are better than you think you are. Courage!”
Although, as Fr. Dale pointed out, courage is not the word we typically hear when we talk about the Annunciation, courage is something Mary possessed. Called (here he quoted the words of my favorite poem on the Annunciation by Denise Levertov) “to a destiny more momentous than any in all of Time, she did not quail, only asked a simple, ‘How can this be?’ and gravely, courteously, took to heart the angel’s reply perceiving instantly the astounding ministry she was offered,” to bear Christ into the world. Mary was free to choose and she had the courage to say yes.
But it is not enough to stop there – to simply recognize Mary’s courage. For, as Fr. Dale reminded us there are annunciations in all of our lives. Indeed, each day and in so many ways, we are invited to participate in birthing Christ into the world. And, as with Mary, it is always our choice how to respond, our choice whether to believe we are better than we think or to turn away at what sometimes seems like too hard a task. And, indeed, many times those moments of annunciation (he again quoted Levertov’s poem here) “are turned away from in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair and with relief. Ordinary lives continue.”
Earlier this week, I included a quote by Meister Eckhard at the end of a post on the O Antiphons. It is a good quote to pray with in connection with the Annunciation:
“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son is I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”
You have a role to play in the birthing of Christ in the world in our time and in our culture. Will you play it?
You are better than you think you are. Courage.