“The world seemed to throw us a curve ball in the last election. We were expecting a victory, finally some security. Instead we got Donald Trump. There is a fog of fear lying low upon us…We need ‘Mary’s Moment’….”
We held a quinceañera earlier this week as we began preparation time. During the quinceañera the young woman rejects evil and pledges her faithfulness to God. On that day, a young woman kneels before the Virgin of Guadalupe and asks for her protection as she pledges her allegiance to righteousness.
Just as we ask a young woman of fifteen to commit to a life of faithfulness and of service to her people, so we call on the young women that gather with her to stand in solidarity with her and to support her in her commitment. Also we call on the young men who were chosen to accompany her on this day to respect her and to defend her if there are any who would disrespect her.
And yet at some of these celebrations, fresh from the service and even during the celebrations that immediately follow these services, young men gather and speak about young women in disrespectful ways – and young women speak about each other - not in solidarity - but in jealousy or envy.
Rape and sexual assault are rampant on college campuses – but they are also rampant on the streets of our community. We defend our young soldiers on the streets who are treated as criminals by the police but we cannot and should not defend the way young women are treated in these organizations.
The nation – or at least half the nation – has elected a President who boasted about his own sexual assaults, who said because he was famous he could do anything he wanted. In his own words the ugliness of the disrespect for women was brought before the nation – and instead of the nation condemning it, half of the nation affirmed it.
This is the same President who campaigned and was elected on the promise to deport eleven million people and who called Mexicans rapists and criminals. This is the same President who actively supported police who racially profiled and brutalized – even murdered – young people of color as they herded them like cattle towards mass incarceration.
We begin this year preparing for battle with this President and the forces he is unleashing in this nation. To defend ourselves from this new administration we will need more than a political strategy. We must learn, a new generation must learn, that you cannot defend yourself against an oppressor if you harbor the same values as the oppressor, if you disrespect each other the way your oppressor disrespects you. A successful social transformation requires human transformation.
What if we had something like a spiritual atom bomb? An atom bomb gets its enormous power from splitting one of the smallest components of matter: the atom. What if we could draw the energy and power we need from the transformation of each individual person? The story told in the gospels, what we call the Word of God for the People of God, begins with the faith and spiritual strength of each person. It begins with the spontaneous response of a young girl to the angel Gabriel, the reaction of a young woman to the action of an Almighty God. In that moment, Mary’s Moment, a movement would begin that would send shock waves through humanity for centuries.
We begin our thoughts today with the quinceañera because today we are talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was no more than fifteen years of age when the angel Gabriel appeared to her – and when she gave birth to the baby Jesus. Mary was a real person that existed in history. She belonged to a people with a long spiritual history – a people that also suffered the oppression of conquest and racism. Mary was to live a long life of struggle, of faith, of teaching and of organizing the movement of those days – and yet the seed, the atom of that life, was already present in its purest and most powerful form when she responded to the angel Gabriel. She responded to the righteousness of God with complete readiness and faithfulness – and in that faithfulness she knew God. It is that moment we seek to experience today, Mary’s Moment.
The world seemed to throw us a curve ball in the last election. We were expecting a victory, finally some security and peace. Instead we got Donald Trump. There is a fog of fear lying low upon us. If we have a correct historical perspective then we should neither be surprised or discouraged by the racial reaction that infected this nation, that put Donald Trump into the White House.
“Mary’s Moment”, the moment of pure faith, also took place in an historical context.
Mary would face the condemnation of the hypocritical leaders among her own people and the oppression of an empire. She would be forced to leave her home and live in a foreign land. She would witness the crucifixion of her son and go on to bear witness with her testimony to his resurrection. She would take her stand and inspire generations. In the faces of young girls we are watching today as they become women, we can still see the face of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the 15 year old who, ageless even in her sorrow, still lives in the presence of the Virgin of Guadalupe among us.
On this day, we are invited to experience the faith of this young girl when she told the angel, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” I hope that at least some here among us will really experience this moment of faith, as Mary did, with a heart opened to be filled with things we don’t yet understand, with a way forward we don’t yet see, but with a total and unconditional commitment to righteousness.
We were asked last week to prepare for this moment as we experienced Zechariah in the temple, confronted with the message of God’s coming intervention and who yet failed to believe, failed in his faith – and then was struck silent so that he could find it again in what the Lord was doing among his family and his people. Our year began in search of that silence so that we might hear the voice of the Lord above the noise of our own fears – as Mary did.
We gathered on Thanksgiving in our homes with our families and friends to give thanks for the life God has given us. We also gathered with Rev. Jackson at Operation PUSH with the family of Miguel Perez, to plead his case to the people. We were called to bear witness to the injustice of his deportation and separation from his family – when so many were giving thanks not only for their families but for those like him who have defended this country in the armed services. We were being prepared for Mary’s moment, a moment in which she and her people were feeling oppressed and were being singled out for shame and discrimination.
Rev. Jackson confirmed our own understanding of what happened in the last election. The struggle we have pursued in our ministry and in Familia Latina Unida and the Fuerza Juventud has been informed by history. We saw that when the nation was evenly divided on the issue of slavery that it was necessary to focus on the President, on the chief executive. Why? Because in an evenly divided nation the Congress cannot be expected to produce justice. In those early days, the movement brought Abraham Lincoln to issue the emancipation proclamation, freeing the slaves. History also teaches that the emancipation proclamation did not go into effect until the civil war had been won.
When a divided nation faced the civil rights demands of the 1960’s, there was a battle to get the democratic President to support new civil rights and voting rights laws. Yet when the democratic President sided with African Americans the white vote in the southern states reacted and Richard Nixon, a “law and order” republican like Trump, was elected. African Americans had to fight their way through that reaction for years.
We fought a powerful battle to win the support of the Democratic Party and the President to support our demand to stop the deportation of young people and families. When he finally took a position, through an executive action - like the emancipation proclamation of our time - he not only could not win in Congress but the democrats lost this last election to white racism: just as they had lost the election to white racism after the victories of the civil rights movement. We understand also that Trump lost in the popular vote and only prevailed in the election because of the racist way in which national elections are counted. Part of our struggle will be to challenge that racist political structure – and we will begin with People’s Popular Vote marches and rallies on January 20th .
History teaches us to expect the racist reaction that was led by Donald Trump – but history also teaches us that we will win the victory we seek if we persevere through the civil war of our times, the civil war of the next few years. That is our historical context. Mary lived in an historical context also – but the movement that prevailed over the Roman Empire and the corruption of the Temple depended on Mary, on Mary’s moment.
What I am saying is that it is not difficult to outline our strategy over the next few years. We are beginning with the fundamentals: organizing our 10-10-10 program, building the membership of Familia Latina Unida and the FuerZa Juventud, organizing our sanctuaries, our defenses and our mobilizations. Yet when we are asked to form our 10-10-10 committees do we respond immediately, with a willing heart, the way Mary responded to the angel? What I am saying is that a political strategy is not enough. What I am saying is we need to experience “Mary’s Moment”.
So here we are – ready for Mary’s moment. In the moment in which she is called to serve her people, to give birth to a savior of her people, she will also be asked to risk her own personal relationships. When she asks the angel, “How can this be possible since I am a Virgin?” her mind must also be thinking that this pregnancy may destroy her marriage to Joseph and isolate her from her family and community.
All through the history of her people the stories were told of the impossible births that gave rise to great leaders like Isaac and Jacob and of women of extraordinary faith like Hannah, whose faith made the impossible a reality. Mary was determined to take her place in the history of faith and struggle of her people.
Mary asks how what the angel tells her can be possible – but she does not doubt nor does she shrink from what she is asked to do. It is this moment of faith and readiness we seek to experience today, a faith we seek ourselves to find in these difficult times.
So let’s focus for a moment on what Mary said. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” When we speak about the word of God we mean something that lies beneath the words in the Bible and its many translations. The Word is the story of the struggle OF God’s people – and also their struggle TO BE God’s people. It is a never ending story with new twists and turns and yet it is a repeating story of renewal and inspiration – and a testimony to the intervention of God in our lives. We read the Bible to guide us in living that continuing story today, in living that struggle.
In accepting the angel’s words Mary accepted her place in the history of her people – but she did not know how this would take place. The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
The angel told Mary, “You are to call him Jesus.” The name Jesus, Yeshua, meant “liberator”. Jesus came to save his people – not only from oppression and domination, but from sin. His ministry will show that the liberation from sin, sin which separates us from God, will come as we struggle for the social liberation of our people. In fact, the whole message of our faith is that it is through the liberation from selfishness, from greed and from envy that we develop the unity to win our social liberation.
There is fear among us – but the first thing the angel told Mary was “Do not be afraid.” All the things we need to do for liberation begin with faith – with Mary’s moment. When she was in the presence of the angel her heart leapt to do what the angel asked. She was not confused by the plans she had made for her life – even for that day. She was not afraid of what was unknown to her. She only wanted to be with the righteous, with the God of her people, with the God that would deliver her people.
So we break the silence of Zechariah today – and we pause to experience Mary’s moment. On that day, in that moment, the Word, the continuing story of the people of God, became flesh. Gabriel is here now in this church, offering you Mary’s moment, offering you the Word. Gabriel offers you a place in the liberation of your people – and in your own life. The most powerful movement to defend our people from Donald Trump begins with the spiritual transformation that gives us the new man and the new woman, the people of God. Let God into your life. Let God lead you into a righteous life in which respect and love can bring new life to your family, your friends and your people. He will never leave you. He will never leave you!
The Holy Scriptures for the Second week in the Time of Preparation
John 1: 1-14 The Word Became Flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. … 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Luke 1:26-33 The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1: 34-3 May your word to me be fulfilled.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.