God's preferential option for the improbable

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, 1898
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgins name was Mary. 
~ Luke 1.26-27

One of my favorite songs in the Stephen Schwartz musical “Pippin,” revived on Broadway not long ago, is “Extraordinary.” Chafing at the dull tasks of manorial life, the young prince Pippin, Charlemagne’s son and heir, laments, “Oh, it's hard to feel special, it's hard to feel big, Feeding the turtle and walking the pig.” He wishes to change the world on a grand scale, not in the mundane details of daily living. 

The metaphor of “walking the pig” reminds us that the truly extraordinary life is not the one lived “in superlatives” that Pippin seeks, but the life in which we do the best we can to follow the will of God, however unexceptional our circumstances. The Annunciation is a case in point. Mary of Nazareth is a poor, uneducated village girl—not a likely candidate, by our lights, for an important assignment. But the God of the Bible repeatedly displays a preferential option for the improbable. So it is to this “nobody” that the master of the paradox, the LORD of the reversal, sends Gabriel; and it is this “nobody” who senses through her fear that she faces a life-defining moment.  


Mary offers herself, in all her ordinariness, fully and without hesitation to God. And in the beat of an angel’s wing, in the breath of a human word, this insignificant peasant girl becomes the “handmaid of the LORD,” God’s essential partner in the mystery of salvation. Today we are called, like Mary, to offer ourselves, ordinary people that we are, as instruments of His extraordinary grace in the world. 

LORD of glory, Incline my ear to hear your call and my heart to respond readily to your direction. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

To hear “Extraordinary,” click here.

You can access the complete collection of the Advent 2015 Reflection Series here.

If you would like to receive these reflections via a daily e-mail, contact Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill at ecahill27@yahoo.com

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
William Rydberg
2 years 5 months ago
Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, it is also the Patronal Feast Day of the United States of America. The Virgin Mary is the Theotokos and the Immaculate Conception is one of her many titles. Accordingly, in my humble opinion, the (most definitely politically incorrect) title of "Walking the Pig" is a coarse insult to Catholics, and to me in particular. But it is up to the Jesuit Fathers that run this magazine to be accountable for its content. Chief among them its Editor. But I suppose our Immaculate Mother has heard worse over the years, I suppose even from her special Sons in the Companions of the Society of Jesus. And like her, I forgive... in Christ,
Bill Moynihan
2 years 5 months ago
There is a pattern of negativity and condescension in your comments to the authors at America. The author is not calling Mary a pig. Please troll other sites.
William Rydberg
2 years 5 months ago
You sir, in my opinion are well known for this type of comment in these pages and your choice of one word suggests volumes about your intellect and fascination for that 5 letter word... Nuff said...
Bill Moynihan
2 years 5 months ago
Thanks. I always thought my intellect was below average, but I appreciate the compliment.


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