St Augustine Grove Park
The People of God II – and Our Lady
16th August 1992
Last week we thought about the People of God as they are portrayed in the books of the Old Testament.
We discovered that they became the people of God because some of them, particularly people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Samuel, learnt about God by obeying his will.
The history of the people of God as set out in the early books of the Bible is one great saga of the people who obeyed, and disobeyed God.
The ones who disobeyed him generally came to a sticky end, defeated and overrun by the warlike nations round about them rather in the way that Bosnia is being carved up by the Serbs and the Croats today.
The ones who obeyed God's will didn't exactly have an easy time. They often found themselves caught in the crossfire between the warring nations. But in the midst of all the turmoil and tragedy they became dimly aware that it was all leading up to something in the purposes and plans of God.
What that "something" was they only had a very dim idea, though the more perceptive of them guessed that it would have to do with the coming of a particular human being some time in the future who would intervene decisively for God in the tide of human affairs and change the whole face of things for the better. But when or where or how such a person would come they knew not. What mattered was that they should be found an acceptable people in God's sight and to this end they faithfully kept God's commandments and obeyed his will even though most of their contemporaries did not.
We know of course that the "coming" was to be that of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Today, the Sunday nearest August 15th, Christians from all over the world join together to celebrate the obedience of the Virgin Mary to the will of God. For it was at that coming that her eager readiness to do God's will by becoming pregnant with his Son established the vital link between heaven and earth and:
Now she's in Heaven of love by Love possessed
All generations are to call her Blessed.
We live at a time when pregnancy is seen by many people as an inconvenience if not a misfortune, and the deliberate killing of unborn children by abortion is seen as the natural answer to it.
But if you think about it, it's really the exact opposite of doing God's will. "Children and the fruit of the womb are an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord" says the psalm; "before I formed you in the womb I knew you" says God to the Prophet Jeremiah. And here, in the case of Mary we have God himself becoming man in Jesus Christ, "taking flesh of the Virgin Mary" as the classical definition has it.
Awkward and inconvenient for her it no doubt was. Think first of all of having to explain to people that this child had no human father; or that her knowledge as to who the Child really was had been revealed to her by an angel. People must have thought that she was mad, and today, for that reason if no other, she would have been a prime target for a termination.
Then think of the responsibility of bringing up such a child. We don't know exactly how old Jesus was when Mary's husband Joseph died, but legend has it that it was not long after his going up to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old. So there is a good chance that during much of his adolescence Jesus was brought up by somenone who was a single parent.
It can't be easy either to have your only son denounced by the religious leaders of the day as a heretic, blasphemer, false prophet, madman or whatever they fancied calling him, to be put to death officially as a political criminal (which was the only charge they could get to stick). Yet there at the foot of the Cross was our Lady, standing by the Son she had given birth to and brought up, whose last thought was to commend her to the keeping of St John his particular friend and apostle.
"Obeying God's will" has never been the straightforward down-the-line procedure that people who have never tried it imagine it to be. The ancient people of God, the Jews of the Old Testament, made the great discovery that by obeying God's Commandments they could find out more and more about him.
By making that discovery they put themselves light-years ahead of the nation's round about, to such an extent that by the time of the Incarnations there were non-Jews, Gentiles that is, all over the world voluntarily keeping the Jewish Law. It was largely out of them, as we shall see next week, that the New People of God were recruited by St Paul and the other early Christian missionaries.
But today we celebrate the Lady about whom for a brief moment all the history of the world was to turn. It is not for her gentleness, beauty, kindness or courage that we think of her, though no doubt she possessed all these virtues. It is for her singular obedience to the will of God that she is famous throughout all ages and in every place.
Think of that the next time God's will for you and your own best interests appear to be in conflict with each other. The Old Testament has near its very beginning the story of one young woman called Eve who put her own immediate interests before doing the will of God. Disaster followed and:
As Eve, when she her fontal sin reviewed
Wept for herself and all she should include...
But the New Testament begins with the precise opposite of that case. A young woman was invited by God to be the Mother of his Son.
Her reply was "behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to your word" and from that instant the disaster begun in Eve began to be reversed.
...Blessed Mary with man's Saviour in embrace
Joyed for herself and all the human race.
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