It took two – a woman and a man – to announce, to bring forth, to proclaim Jesus the Christ. Both had to choose to follow God’s lead, God asking of them to forego the path they were currently on and follow God’s path instead.
Mary was set to marry Joseph, an upright and just person. God, however, had other plans. So God sent an angel to declare, “You shall bear a Son, through the Holy Spirit, and call him Jesus.”
I saw a painting in Assisi of this scene. Mary was very thoughtful, the angel was waiting for a response. I imagine it took a while for Mary to discern if this was real or just her imagination. Maybe Gabriel said, “Think and pray about this and I will come back for your answer.” In the end Mary knew God was calling her, so she said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary suffered because of her call, especially as she watched her son being tortured and then crucified, and could do nothing to stop it.
John the Baptist, according to some scripture scholars, probably joined an Essene Community in the desert. He was set to spend his life in prayer with this community. Then God called him to proclaim a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins. John, also knew he was not the Savior. One coming after him would be the One. John was killed, beheaded, because of his preaching, his truth telling, his insistence on changing your life to really follow God, not just pretend you are following God.
It took both Mary and John to make Jesus known as the One who is to come. God continues to use both women and men today to make God’s message of love, forgiveness, justice, peace and mercy known and to bring people to change their lives, to come to know this God deeply, and act accordingly. As St. Paul tells us, “In Christ we were also chosen.”
Through both Mary and John, God is telling us that all people, women and men, are equal. We have differences and different gifts, and we are equal with one another as persons. There is no one-up or one-down, we are equal. Racism, sexism, and all the other isms are a sin. We must be converted, change our hearts, our minds, so that we truly see all people as our equals, as brothers and sisters. It is what Pope Francis teaches us in his latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti.
So we, individuals and institutions, need to continually listen for God’s voice calling us, both women and men, to conversion of heart. Calling us to proclaim Jesus is Lord – not power or money or a good reputation – Jesus is Lord.
As Isaiah says in the first reading; “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, [to Portland, to Oregon, to our world.] Fear not to cry out and say: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God. Like a shepherd God feeds the flock, in loving arms God gathers the lambs, carrying them close, and leading the ewes with care.”
We are all called to be that kind of shepherd, to proclaim God’s equality, forgiveness and mercy to our world. Let us go forth, be converted, and answer this call.