An angel and a girl were in a kitchen one day…
We’ve all heard the jokes that begin this way. The phrase sets a scene of utter improbability, inviting us to join in, to imagine.
Imagination is so important in reading the bible. Sometimes we can read it literally, taking the words at face value. But even when we do, we must be aware of the vast gulf in context and culture that lies between 21st century western thought and experience, and 1st century Middle East. And then there is so much in the bible which is allegorical or metaphorical, or where a prophet is trying to express in words a vision which is so transcendent that words will always fall short. “It was like” is a common phrase in the Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and so on), because they are trying to use earthly words and concepts to describe and define the spiritual.
An angel and a girl were in a kitchen one day… Heaven came to meet earth, a precursor of the Incarnation when God became Man in order to help us be restored and reconciled in relationship with God.
God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a girl named Mary (Luke 1.26-38), to ask her to be the mother of His Son. It would be possibly dangerous for her – to be an unmarried mother meant shame and disgrace, possibly even death. But Mary had the courage and – most importantly – trusted in God that all would somehow be well. Most importantly, Mary had a lot of evidence to support her trust and faith.
The bible is full of stories of God asking or suggesting seemingly impossible things and then making them happen, with the help of those people who trusted and believed in Him. Last Sunday was Pentecost, the fulfilment of so many things, when the Holy Spirit came in power upon those first followers of Jesus, enabling them to preach the gospel boldly and publicly, and the Church was born. It was the fulfilment of Jesus’ ministry on earth, begun at the Visitation of Gabriel to Mary which this year was on Wednesday 31st May (yesterday). It was also the fulfilment of God’s promises spoken throughout the bible, from Genesis onwards. It was the fulfilment of God’s plan to rescue and restore humanity to full relationship with Himself after the Fall in Genesis 3. St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians even calls Jesus the Second Adam (1 Cor 15.21-22, 45-49).
God often starts (and continues) in the most surprising places. In a garden with Adam and Eve. With a shepherd boy, David. In a kitchen with Mary. With the headstrong and stubborn fisherman Peter, always too ready to act before thinking. Naked and humiliated, dying on a cross. And again in a garden, at the Resurrection, in a mirror image of the Beginning in Genesis: humanity restored in the same kind of place that it was first created. Finally, with a group of ordinary people, not scholars or powerful men, gathered in the Temple giving praise to God, when the Holy Spirit fell upon them and the Church began.
A Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, wrote a small book in 2019 called “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference”. As I was writing today, that title instantly came to mind. Mary was an invisible girl from a town few had heard of, who was destined for a quiet life of domesticity. Mary’s courage in saying Yes to God, in trusting Him, in obeying Him, changed the world for all time. For that the Church has honoured her above all women for two millennia. Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
An angel and a girl were in a kitchen one day. The angel said to the girl, “How about it? How about becoming the mother of God’s Son?” “You’ve got to be kidding,” said the girl. “Impossible.” “Do you trust God? Look at your cousin Elizabeth! You know God works miracles!” The girl thinks about it for a moment. “Okay, I trust God. I’m in. He’s in charge. I want to help.” And so it was.
May God give us the grace and courage to follow His call, knowing and trusting that God often uses the small and seemingly unimportant people in the world to make the biggest difference.