By Sharon Crall
What do an adolescent, an elderly woman and two babes in the womb have in common in this Sunday’s Gospel? Salvation history ends up in their hands.
What awesome power! What tremendous responsibility! Yet the world at the time would have viewed these dynamic characters as the lowly and irrelevant people of society. It leads one to examine the subject of power and who has it.
In the Gospel account for the fourth week of Advent, Mary, the unwed pregnant teenager, has recently responded to the call of God to be an instrument of the incarnation. She is to bear the Son of God. In the culture of the times, Mary would have been subject to ridicule, jeopardy and disgrace for being pregnant, poor and without a husband. Elizabeth, an older woman who finds herself with child well beyond child-bearing years, gratefully accepts her condition. Yet she would be suffering from the same lowly status. Her child is the future John the Baptist, who stirs in her womb as he recognizes the Savior in Mary’s womb. Elizabeth, too, is an instrument of God’s grace and her son also has a crucial role in salvation history. John, as we have heard in Gospel accounts this Advent season, became the prophet who prepared the way of Lord by preaching repentance and change of lifestyle. This caused people to believe he might be the Messiah, but he assured them, “one mightier than I is coming.” John cooperated as an instrument of God as the plan unfolded. And Jesus, the lowly babe placed in a straw manger at birth, became the Savior of the world as he submitted to God’s will.
All four people mentioned or alluded to in this Gospel account might have seemed unworthy in the eyes of society to hold the power of salvation history in their hands, but it was God’s will that they do so. They cooperated in becoming instruments of his mighty plan for redemption. In a world that viewed our four characters as insignificant, God placed his trust in them and they responded by doing his will. God did not choose a queen to be the mother of God. He did not choose rich parents for John or introduce him into a position of established prominence. Jesus and his parents were not even afforded a comfortable inn for his birth. God chose to manifest his power in the smallest of people and places.
What does all this say about power in today’s world? We have witnessed instances of the powerful, rich and famous abusing the power afforded them. They acquire and possess power without realizing the role of God in its gift. People flock to sources of power because they want to be part of it.
I believe we don’t realize the true power contained within us. As instruments of God’s will, we all hold a treasure within us. We can use that power in simple ways, within our means. We let God’s power pass through us when we:
• Donate canned goods to the local food pantry; we allow people to have food they would not otherwise attain.
• Place $5 in the Salvation Army kettle; someone may use that $5 to buy warm socks for winter.
• Serve Christmas dinner to the homeless; those people are able to enjoy the dignity of a warm and balanced sit-down meal.
• Say a prayer for our military so far away, never underestimate the power of prayer.
• Bring a dish to a funeral dinner; we share a corporal works of mercy with a grieving family.
• Offer words of encouragement to someone; it might be what they need to hear at the time.
Let us remember our role as instruments of God’s will and cooperate to bring about the power really needed in our world today. As we surrender to God’s power and allow it to move through us, we do make a difference in the world. There lies true power.
(Crall is RCIA coordinator and assistant religious education director for St. Mary Parish in Albia and pastoral associate at St. Patrick Parish in Georgetown.)