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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: December 20, 2014
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. Benedict Church in Subiaco on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. It is based on these readings: Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 40; 3; John 5-8; and Luke 1:26-38.
"And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age ... for nothing is impossible for God." Jack, not only does this sentence just happen to appear in the Gospel for today, Saturday of the third week of Advent, it is also in the Gospel for tomorrow, the fourth Sunday of Advent — the day when you will be celebrating your first Mass of Thanksgiving, and of all the Gospel readings you could have chosen, this is the one you picked for your ordination to the priesthood. And it fits, for behold, MotherChurch has chosen one of her sons to become a priest in his old age, for nothing is impossible for God!
But there is more to this Gospel reading than just that: it contains Mary's vocation story. We call this event "the annunciation" but it is also about her response to God's call. It contains the first proclamation of the Good News of our salvation: the angel Gabriel announces that God has chosen Mary for a very important role in his plan of salvation.
She will conceive the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God who as we know will break the power of sin and death, set us free from all that holds us bound and dispel the darkness with the light of sacrificial love. And the story concludes with Mary embracing God's call: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
In every Mass you celebrate, in every homily you prepare, in every interaction with the people God entrusts to your care. You are to bring Gospel joy to every baptism, every wedding and every person you visit in the hospital.
Notice that God had a plan for Mary, but she still had to open her heart to what God was asking of her. She could do this because she was a woman of prayer, a woman who always wanted to do God's will. And now that she knew what that was, she was willing to take the risk of saying "yes!" even though she wasn't given the details of how things were going to unfold.
She didn't yet know anything of the cross, or for that matter even of how Joseph was going to take this, or that within a year they would be refugees in Egypt, or that she would one day be a widow and the changes that becoming a widow would produce in the subsequent chapters of her life. She knew none of this, and indeed, if she had needed to know every detail in advance, she may well have played it safe and said "no!" to God.
This is because a full response to his call means that we make decisions based not on fear but rather on trust. And it requires courage too, which is available to us when we truly believe that nothing is impossible for God. Not even the unprecedented fact that elderly Elizabeth is in her sixth month. Not even the practically unprecedented fact that a 70 year old man is about to be ordained a priest. Nothing is impossible for God!
And so Jack, as you assume the responsibilities of the priesthood, remember that like the angel Gabriel, you are to be a messenger of the Good News of Jesus Christ in everything you do. In every Mass you celebrate, in every homily you prepare, in every interaction with the people God entrusts to your care. You are to bring Gospel joy to every baptism, every wedding and every person you visit in the hospital.
You are to touch the heart of every penitent with God's tender mercy and bring hope to those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. You are to be a light in the darkness, glowing with the light of the child whose birth we will celebrate in 5 days — and whose conception was announced in the Gospel you chose for your ordination.