Lk 1:26-38 Presence as Present
The prophets were sent by God; the angel Gabriel was sent from God; Jesus was sent by His Father; the Apostles were sent by the Lord; the disciples were sent by the Apostles, and every Christian is reborn through the Lord’s disciples. The presence of the Lord is felt by all, one way or another.
God is with us! This is the greatest annunciation! God dwells among us. God is present among us. God begins it all, like in the beginning: Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you! Our ancestor's response cannot be my response. It must be an heart warming, arms open acceptance, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” No questions, no doubts, no bargains, but tons of fear.
A Christian’s presence should always be a present, a gift to another. This is frightening. It means to relinquish power and to transfer it over to another. God is hidden in Mary’s womb. God travels along his mother’s path. God is obedient to creation. How beautiful as long as that gift is not manipulated and distorted due to evil.
In today’s dialogue, I am amazed at how brief it all is. There are no “what if’s…” or demands or certain conditions and guarantees requested. Mary is frightened. Not in her mission but in this angel. Is this angel an angel from God or from below? She knows perfectly well why she should be on guard. After all, it was a fallen angel that deceived Eve; a fallen angel that promised glory and honors. The angel makes himself clear: there will be no glory, no honors. Simeon drives the point home, “a sword shall pierce your heart” (Lk 2:35).
Mary’s remarkable fiat is all the more remarkable once we place ourselves in her life. Her life is not much different than ours: a life of tears, fears, hard work and little comment. But her presence is felt throughout the world, even in the netherworld. She is a walking earthquake. She makes her presence felt.
Mary’s beauty is uncovered when she discovers the meaning of her life. Her presence is the greatest gift she gives to the world, and she has been called to be a present for many.
I learned seven years ago that talent and titles are not necessarily necessary to make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes we think that if we were in a higher position, or accumulated a little more wealth, and/or possessed better skills, we could make more of a difference in the world. This is what I thought, until I was sent to Mexico to train in being the head of a school.
In 2003, after being ordained a deacon, I was sent to a tiny town called Aguascalientes to train under the leadership of a priest who had been in charge of schools for many years. He was the best. I got there and began my three month training by being his gofer. He told me flat out that he didn’t have time for me. I thought, “Great, another brilliant idea from the top brass.” We would drive together to school and then I would spend the entire day in a tiny cubicle reading over manuals written in Spanish.
Then one day, I heard the kids outside during recess. I went out and started talking to them. They asked me a ton of questions, “Where did you come from?” “What are you doing here?” My answers weren’t too thrilling, especially since they were in a horrible Spanish. I really didn’t know what to say. But the kids invited me nonetheless, “Want to play soccer? Want to go to lunch with us? Come visit our classroom! Come over to our house. Want to come to my recital? Our play? When I saw a kid alone and outside his classroom I would come over and talk to him. I got to know many by doing that!
The three months went by fairly quickly. I was kind of sad to leave and get back to Rome. The day before my departure, I was invited to a surprise party. I didn’t know exactly what the occasion was for, but I got there and we were all waiting for the head of the school to walk in. As the door began to open, I saw everyone around me getting excited. The head of the school walked in, but there was no applause, no shouting, no “Surprise!!!!” Instead, he walked over to me, and as he did, the crowd began to come around me. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Surprise! The party is for you!”
For me? Yes, he replied. The kids and their families wanted to thank you for all that you had done for them. You see, to be the head of the school means to be among the kids, teachers and families. When they are there, you’re there. When they are not there, that’s when you’re in your office.
Presence trumps all other things: titles, business skills, managing skills, human resources skills. Presence is more important than being able to fix the plumbing, the roof, the car. Your presence is what makes the gift you give special.
Presence is the reason why we love Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They [are] were a present to each other in the good, the bad and difficult times of their lives.
May we learn to be a gift to others, and may the Lord protect us from those who wish to take advantage of our presence.