Everything Is Made Right
Homily for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
Preached on December 31, 2008 and January 1, 2009 at Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary Church, Lexington KY
Readings: Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21
Everything that could go wrong did on that night.
First, “there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk. 2:7). I suppose that Joseph, who probably never bothered to ask for directions to Bethlehem, also forgot to make reservations for him and his pregnant wife for census day. Second, the only empty nook that Joseph could find in all of David’s city was in an animal house. Sure, there was fresh hay for the maternity bed, but they also had to share the space with the livestock. Third, the carpenter forgot to pack the cradle he had made for the Baby. And so, Joseph and Mary had to make do with what was available: the manger (cf. Lk. 2:7) from which the donkeys and the oxen had just eaten their dinner. Fourth, their very first guests were shepherds who lived with their flock and most assuredly smelled like their flock. I’m sure that Joseph and Mary were very welcoming to that rugged band that had come from the pasture to see the newborn Child. But I also wonder, after they had heard the shepherds’ story of the multitude of the heavenly host that had proclaimed this glorious birth (cf. Lk. 2: 11-13), whether they had wished that at least one angel could have found his way to proclaim the same thing to an innkeeper in Bethlehem and convinced the said innkeeper to give them an upgrade from the stable.
This list of what went wrong could have driven many a pregnant woman to a hissy fit and yet the Evangelist tells us that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19). This woman but a chapter before in the Gospel broke into a canticle of praise—she sang: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk. 1:46-47)—when she visited her relative Elizabeth. And yet, this woman now is silent, not making any complaints, and even we know that there is a laundry list that she could have complained about. She now is silent, keeping instead in her heart the things that have happened that silent night. On the night of her greatest joy, the birth of her firstborn Son who is the Savior of the world, Mary found no words. Were this a movie musical, we would have expected her to break into song again. In fact, a whole choir of angels already did. But Mary kept silent in the face of mystery because she knew that on this night when everything went wrong, everything has been made right.
Just when we thought that everything had gone wrong, what Micah the prophet had foretold had come true: from Bethlehem has gone forth a ruler in Israel (Mi 5:2). Just when we thought that everything had gone wrong, what Isaiah the seer had said was found in that stable all forlorn: the virgin has borne a Son (Is. 7:14). Just when we thought that everything had gone wrong, what the angel Gabriel had called this child was now His name: Jesus (Lk. 2:21). Just when we thought that everything had gone wrong, everything had come to pass exactly as God had planned.
Year after year after year, we hear of the unraveling of God’s plan in the birth of the Christ-child and I’ve wondered whether we’ve realized how crazy this plan is, at least according to our human standards. Here we have a mother who remains a virgin, God who is made man, and we who are the slaves of sin raised to the status of God’s sons and daughters, made by Him to be the heirs of His Kingdom (Gal. 4:7). Perhaps, that is why Mary kept all these things in her heart (Lk. 2:19), to ponder on what wondrous love this is, to reflect on this marvelous exchange of our humanity for the Lord’s divinity, to sit back in awe at the fact that despite all our wrongs God still chooses to set us right.
While the world around us admires the fireworks display of the New Year and watches in anticipation a ball dropping in a New York square, Mary the Mother of God invites us to be mesmerized again by the heavenly things of our salvation the splendor and wonder of which have not faded, even with the passing of two thousand years. In this world where everything seems to go wrong, Mary calls us back to the serenity of that stable. She says to us: Hush now; everything will be all right.