Sermon for the Day of Mary, Mother of Our Lord
“Maria Peregrina: God’s transformation, Our Questions.” Mary, the Mother of our Lord.
August 14, 2022
By: Pr. Sergio Rodriguez
Readings: Lk. 1:46b-47.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Lk 1:46b-47).” Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord; Let us exalt God’s name + together. Amen.
God wants you to ask questions! God wants your deep stirring, those thoughts, dreams, and concerns that keep you up at night, and wants to hear you name them out loud. God wants you to ask the What, Where, Why and How we have come along as humanity. In the unexpected and mysterious tidings of the angel Gabriel, even Mary did not leave God’s emissary off the hook when she asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin? (Lk 1:34)”
Yes, God wants you to ask questions!
The students and faculty who comprise our campus ministry chose to make this statement central to their mission because of the Spirit’s guidance. The spirit blowing through campuses and universities is that of question and transformation. Our world is mired in war, systemic racism, -phobias against all sorts of identity markers, climate catastrophe, and authoritarianism. What do we need to understand about this world and how do we make a change? The challenge we face in campus ministry is not that young adults fail to hear the substance of our gospel text: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly (Lk 1:52). But that these thoughtful leaders are already on the path of transformation; be it amongst immigrates in Houston, innovative inventions in the medical center, or challenging systemic racism within the very life of the university itself. Of course, this transformation is messy, as change is often messy.
Is this transformation, they ask? Is this justice?
Yes, the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up…as a garden (Isa 61:11), but know that dirt can get trapped in our fingernails when we sow seeds for a better tomorrow.
God wants you to ask these kinds of transformative questions. On this, the one-year anniversary of my call to be one of your Pastors, I offer you this sermon, “Maria Peregrina: God’s transformation, our Questions,” as a way of seeing these kinds of questions as opportunities to be drawn into God. Mary became a faith-filled pilgrim when she set out to Elizabeth’s home for this reason: She had questions. These questions draw her into a transformative moment; you are blessed with the Son of God who is in you, Jesus. The Spirit sets Mary (and us) onto the pilgrim path, watching and wondering how God’s tomorrow unfolds through us.
What about Elizabeth, Huh?: God’s promised answer
The Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel, sent by God, announced to Mary that she would give conceive a child, name him Jesus and thus give birth to the Son of the Most High (Lk 1:26-33). Of course, Mary, from the moment Gabriel said his Hail Marys (and Our Fathers), was perplexed…and pondered (Lk 1:29). The more Gabriel speaks, the more questions Mary has. How can a poor boy from a poor family be the protagonist of God’s Neverending Story? How can her womb topple empires and establish everlasting peace in this world? Even Gabriel’s assurances that “your relative Elizabeth in her old age has already conceived a son…For nothing will be impossible with God (Lk 1:36-37),” did not dispel the deep stirrings in her heart. Even behind her “Let it be with me according to your word (Lk 1:38),” conceals this earlier question: “How can this be? (Lk 1:38).” Here is my first point. Mary becomes a faith-filled pilgrim because of her questions. She is Maria Peregrina.
She departs with haste to meet her cousin. She’s a woman with a singular mission, intent to find out if she will give birth to the one who shall transform this broken world. Can the least and the lowly be the seeds for God’s tomorrow? Many of us within the wider church has been struggling with this question. We have done so because there are deep stirrings in our collective consciousness: How can we make a community where there’s a wide and broad table for all people to participate in God? How can our community reflect the rich tapestry of folks and make known that we are a people on the path? Not with answers but with questions. As I reflect on this year of ministry, I have this question (of others) that I want to ask you today: How shall the greater Houston area know us? Shall we be at the forefront of welcoming and leading diverse communities? I leave that question for you to ponder. Perhaps Mary may show us how these questions may draw us to love the God whom we can not see.
…and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
When our Peregrina finally stands before the embodiment of her intention, her cousin Elizabeth, She is drawn into a transformative moment. They greet. John leaps. The Spirit is poured out. The word finally gets out. “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord (Lk 1:45).” Blessed are you for sitting with your questions. Blessed are you on your journey. Blessed are you for showing the way of a faith-filled pilgrimage. And here’s my second point. For here is the more excellent way. The way of deep transformation. Maria, la peregrina, is brought into a living relationship with God through the promise of her Son in the power of the Spirit, precisely because she walked not by sight. But by her faith-filled questions. There are these Elizabeth-moments in our daily lives where the Spirit breaks through to assure us that in our questioning, the Word is born anew in us. When we allow for the Spirit to work in these moments, we catch glimpses of God’s coming day. These rays burn within us the gifts which keep on giving. Listen to Mary in our Gospel text.
She cannot contain herself. The spirit within her bursts forth into joyful praise of God’s tomorrow: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Lk 1:47). She has been caught up in the mystery of God. Her song brings her into God’s new tomorrow where God’s Will makes all things new. Even Luther, the most non-mystic theologian of Christianity concurs when he writes:
Mary says, “My soul magnifies him— that is my whole life and being, mind and strength…She is caught up, as it were, into him and felt lifted up into his good and gracious will…(Annotated Luther. Vol 4. Pg. 325).
So, Yes! God wants you to ask those soul-filled, no holds barred, earnest questions! For we are all like Mary, pilgrims in search of promises kept. For Mary, her “Elizabeth- moment” did not put an end to her questioning. Those Spirit-filled moments seldom do. Nor should they, lest we lose sight of the Mighty One, who wants you to be caught up into him. Instead, there are transformative moments, every single day of our lives, among new friends, new rhythms of life, and opportunities to challenge systemic ills. Watch with wonder and be warned. God will cause many things to spring forth from your questioning. Or perhaps cast the mighty from their thrones. Amen.