The where and with whom great things happen
LUKE 1:26–38 By Abbot John Pereira OSB
“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Lk 1:26–27).
It may be rather surprising that God would send an angel to Nazareth for such an important mission as identifying a young virgin to be the mother of His Son.
Nazareth was a backwater. No-one expected it to yield much. Nothing happened there. This is clearly indicated in the Gospel of John by the reaction of Nathanael to Philip when He was told about Jesus and that he was from Nazareth: “From Nazareth? Can anything good come from that place?” (Jn 1:46).
It is to this backwater, this obscure village, that God chose to send His angel to announce the birth of His Son. It is in this backwater that Mary lived—a powerless female in a world ruled by males—poor, in a highly stratified society.
And it is in this poor Virgin Mary that God chose to make the birth of His Son happen. This Nazareth, this place from where no good came, is precisely the place where God chose to enter directly into the realm of human history.
God always comes in an unobtrusive and simple manner and often to a person who and in a place we least expect.
Mary is troubled herself as she cannot come to terms with the fact that God was choosing her for this mighty task. She was deeply disturbed at the greeting of the angel.
Mary is confused and hesitant as she knows that she is a virgin. “‘But how can this come about since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered, ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow…” (Lk 1:34–35).
We all have our pet prejudices. There were and are many ‘Nazareths’ in our nation of Trinidad and Tobago. These are the backwaters, the ‘hot spots’, the places where we do not expect great things to happen. But the God we believe in is a God who chooses these backwaters to do His wonderful work. And God also chooses the persons whom we least expect to be instruments of His work. Two thousand years ago, God chose a humble Virgin in an obscure village to be the bearer of His Son. Today, God is choosing us to do precisely the same thing.
In the 1950s, La Romaine in south Trinidad, with its largely poor and working-class population, was one such ‘Nazareth’. Thanks to the late Dom Basil Matthews OSB and his conviction that something good could come out of La Romaine, he established St Benedict’s College to give hope to the young men of the district. Today, La Romaine is an important place in the region of the City of San Fernando.
The 14th century Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhart once said: “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God fourteen hundred years ago if I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and culture?”
Just as Mary bore the Son of God in her womb 2000 years ago, we each have to bear the Son of God in our lives and in our hearts. In this way we will be ready for His coming not only as the Christ child at Christmas time, but also as the King and the Judge at the end of our earthly lives.
Heavenly Father, I trust in You. Please give me the grace to recognise Your divine presence in our modern-day ‘Nazareths’.
Thank You for choosing a poor virgin in a backwater place to become the mother of Your Son. Help me to see You being born over and over again in unexpected persons and in unexpected places. Amen.
The gospel reflections for December are by Abbot John Pereira OSB of the Abbey of Our Lady of Exile, Mount St Benedict.