Saturday, December 8, 2007
The angel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you."
Luke didn't reveal his sources, but his method was historical. In this first chapter of his two book history of Jesus' ministry (Luke and Acts) he calls his work an "orderly account." And he begins with revelation, as God reveals himself and his intentions to the two women who will bear the marked men.
Mary visits Elizabeth, perhaps in the midst of rejection at home because of her ill-timed pregnancy. Elizabeth's baby turns over in her womb, and she greets Mary like the mother of the Messiah, with awe and rejoicing.
Both sons would die strange, tragic deaths early in their adult lives as a result of their own experience with the "Most High." Jesus would not stay dead, and no doubt John did not either, although he didn't return to earth in the clothing of his flesh.
But this first chapter is just the beginning, and Luke writes with grace and beauty of two visitations. We talk of angels, but Elizabeth and Mary spent time in their presence. Mary spoke, the angel spoke, Mary understood ... and in a little while she was visited again by the "Holy Spirit." And regardless of names she might not have heard before, she knew the power of God.
Mary did not turn away. She turned toward God, opened herself, made herself the "handmaiden of the Lord," and God filled first her body and then her life with Jesus.
Luke tells this simple story, and invites his readers to do the same. Jesus' teaching made it clear that the Holy Spirit has been freed to come upon us, too. We too can be overshadowed by the power of the Most High.
How is that happening in my life? When and how am I turning Toward God and opening myself up? I think of moments: early morning startled out of a dream, meeting a homeless guy a few days ago who needed money, when I cut Margaret off on the phone (and later apologized), late at night when the world gets quieter. All kinds of moments. In every one I can turn toward God ... or away.
Mary shows me how to live my life, Lord. Not with a whimper but a bang. Turning toward all that you do, and leaving the spirit of timidity in the closet. Make me your instrument of peace, Father. Most High. Most High.