Room for God

Published on 15 Dec 2020

The angel went in and said to her, “Rejoice so highly favoured”[1]. 

The prayer called the Angelus[2] recalls Gabriel’s visit to Our Lady.  The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.  The Angelus is a prayer of thanksgiving for the incarnation. In the morning, at midday and in the evening, that the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us [3] can be gratefully remembered.  To repeat the Angelus at various times during the day is an effort to allow to be sanctified everything we do and the whole of our life. I will sing forever of your love, O Lord [4].  Every so often, we deliberately remember God and that he came down among us to help us. This memory consoles us in our struggles: nothing is impossible to God [5].  We are enabled to make room for him.  When the Son became human, he set about divinising the rest of us.  The incarnation touches with the holiness of God everything that happens.  The creator not only made the world but he joined himself to it and found his place in it.

The Angelus also celebrates the part played in our redemption by the Blessed Virgin Mary.  ‘I am  the handmaid of the Lord’ said Mary.  ‘Let what you have said be done to me.’ [6]   Our Lady’s assent to God’s request expresses a willing discipleship, which we would like to imitate.  Already, before he was born, she was her son’s faithful follower. Jesus Christ is the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages [7].  Like Mary, we desire to listen to what is being asked of us. With her, we want readily to accede to the Lord’s request of us.  She shows us how to be more than merely accommodating.  Encouraged by her, we seek to live always in accordance with what is demanded of us by our proximity to Jesus and by the assent, which we have already given, to what we understand of his will for us.   Mary shows us how to be consistently open to divine action and help.  She intercedes for us to this end.  The Angelus reminds us that she does so.  It includes our request:  pray for us, O holy mother of God.  We know we will not be able to remain faithful disciples of Christ without help. Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News [8].  The Angelus frames our request for strength as: pour forth we beseech you O Lord your grace into our hearts.  The help for discipleship, focused on Jesus and his passion, death and resurrection, is a grace which it is right to seek.  Persistence is required if we are to receive this necessary boost. We pray for it.  The holy mother of God prays for it for us.

If the request at the end of the Angelus is fulfilled, we will be brought to the glory of the resurrection.  We want to live every day joyfully convinced by the Holy Spirit of what has been achieved for us by Jesus’ rising. This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be [9].  Since the Son has risen, we too can hope to live forever in the presence of the Father.  Of this I am sure that your love lasts forever, that your truth is firmly established as the heavens [10]. Our prayer permeates the whole day with attention to what is most important.  The Spirit prays within us.  Patiently, he finds his place amid our routines. This place grows roomier.  Little by little, he coaxes us toward the generous perseverance in prayer to which we were called from the first.   What a privilege to be ourselves the setting for the divine conversation between Father, Son and Spirit.  Are we a temple, containing God?  Jesus spoke of the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple as an image of his resurrection.  Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it up [11].  The Lord first purifies the holy place, my temple will be a house a prayer [12], and then allows it to be overthrown.  He submits to his own death and teaches us to accept ours as a passage into eternity.  We are temples consecrated to prayer but we are not indestructible[13].  Nor do we precisely ‘contain’ the One who has made us and holds us in being.  Although the Word dwells among us, not even the whole universe is a container of God. He is within us but he is not limited to us.  Our steady prayer keeps us on the alert for him and deepens our sense of being dedicated to him.  However we never pin down our maker and saviour.   Our Lady may be said to have contained Jesus: but she is always much more than a vessel, and, like us, much less than the One worshipped.

You have won God’s favour[14].  The honour given to Mary speads out to us also.  She made a home for the Word-made-flesh and, spurred on by her agreement, we too are enabled to welcome our incarnate Lord.  Room is being made in our life for Jesus.  His presence in us, as his temple, intensifies our desire to pray often and to consecrate our days by making the most of such attentive moments as the Angelus. The holy of holies in which God permits himself to be accommodated is worthy of the highest respect.  Our self-respect increases at the thought of the privilege which has been given to us.  Despite everything, we are deemed worthy of receiving our saviour.  But how can this come about? [15].  If Our Lady was surprised, we are flabbergasted.  The power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow[16].   The advent of the Word-made-flesh into our life is long awaited and perseveringly prayed for. It is completely a gift from God.   He arrives. He surprises us.  It is not that we have made room.  Indeed, for Mary when the time came for her to have her child [17],  there was no room [18].

Mary and Joseph could find no proper accommodation.  Perhaps as one innkeeper after another turned them away they felt like King David, told that he was not be the one to construct the Temple.  Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in?[19]  It is right to want to accommodate the Word properly.  I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent [20].  Our sense of what is fitting for the sacred does not mislead us but it is not always decisive.  Wise as Nathan is he does not, on this occasion, give the best counsel.  God responds in his own way and in his own time, to our persevering prayer to be allowed to make room for him in our life.  The temple is eventually built and, in due course, will be pulled down.  Meanwhile, the stable at Bethlehem will be the holy of holies.  That room among us must be found has been made known by the message of an angel.  Our welcome is indispensable, yet it is Lord himself who chooses where he settles and his manner of doing so.  He dwelt among us and never leaves us.

Homily by Fr Peter Gallagher SJ

[1]              Luke 1.28

[2]              The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary…

Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to your word. Hail Mary…

And the Word was made flesh.  And dwelt among us. Hail Mary…

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech you O Lord, your grace into our hearts; that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, your Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

[3]              John 1.14

[4]              Psalm (89) 88.1

[5]              Luke 1.37

[6]              Luke 1.38

[7]              Romans 16.26

[8]              Romans 16.25

[9]              Romans 16.26

[10]            Psalm (89) 88.2

[11]            John 2.19

[12]            Luke 19.46

[13]            Hebrews 13.14

[14]            Luke 1.30

[15]            Luke 1

[16]            Luke 1.35

[17]            Luke 2.6

[18]            Luke 2.7

[19]            2 Samuel 7.5

[20]            2 Samuel 7