4th Sunday in Advent
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her," Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren, for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I continue my journey toward the mystery of your Birth. I believe that you are truly God and truly Man, and that you have come to teach us that God is our Father, who seeks only what is good for us. I place all my trust in you, that with your help I will be able to overcome that part of me that wants to run away from you and fears you. You became a child for me to show me there is nothing you won’t do for me, and to show me the reality of your love for me. I want to learn to love like that, for then you will truly live in me.
Petition: Mary, pray with me and enlighten me. You are the model for every vocation. You sought God’s will in your life, and you accepted it when it was made known to you. Although it was confusing and seemed to conflict with your plans, you accepted it with simplicity and generosity. Help me to seek God’ will sincerely, to perceive it clearly, and to accept it generously and out of love. I want my life to be in perfect harmony with God and pleasing to Him. I want to be a part, even if only a small one, of this world’s solution, and not part of its problem. Finally, no matter what my calling is, let me live it with you and following your example. I know that then I will be living it in the best and most pleasing way for God. With you I will live my vocation serenely, with trust, confidence and enthusiasm.
1. Mary’s Example. Mary, in the act of giving her yes to the Lord gives us the most beautiful and luminous example of how to follow our individual calling, and she also shows us the foundation for our answer. She gave God a total and complete yes, a yes without limits or constraints, a perpetual yes. Yet her action was not one of “blind”, irrational faith. She already knew God through his revelation to the chosen people, she experienced his presence and action through her own, personal contact with him in prayer and in a real but mysterious way through the presence of God in her soul unhampered by any sin. She already loved him with her whole heart, with her whole mind and with all her strength, and so she was inclined to trust him even when her reason still had questions and did not fully understand.
Her openness with God allowed her to state her question in all simplicity, not to change his will but wanting to understand it and so fulfill it more perfectly. The angel gave her a sign, that her elderly cousin Elizabeth was already with child, but we should remember that she gave her yes to God before she had the opportunity to go and verify the sign. She trusted that nothing is impossible for God even before she had the tangible proof; her faith was not the type that seeks signs but went before them. When she reached Elizabeth, her cousin greeted her with the words, blessed are you who have believed.
Let us contemplate this attribute of Mary and ask ourselves what we need to do in order to imitate it, so as to open more our hearts to Jesus who wishes to be born there once more.
2. Price and Peace. We call Mary the Queen of Peace and at Christmas we remember Christ as the Prince of Peace. We see in both of them that peace is not the absence of struggle, for both their lives are brimming with sacrifice which culminates with Christ’s death on the Cross, with Mary standing beside him. So, where is true peace to be found? It consists in the conquest of what is disordered in our lives and in overcoming the fruits of sin. Neither Christ nor Mary sinned, but they conquered the fruit of sin in the world: Christ by his life, passion, death and resurrection; Mary by cooperating in Christ’s redeeming work. Working to allow Christ to reign in our heart and doing all we can to help others open their hearts to him in the same way are how we bring peace into our own lives. Peace is not so much the absence of struggle as knowing that we are in our Father’s hands and all things contribute to the good of those whom God loves.
We often overlook the fact that external peace, peace between people, is the fruit of the peace that first reigns in our own soul. The person who loves and believes in Christ will face the difficulties, struggles and adversities of life with a peace and serenity that others do not understand. When we are not at peace in ourselves, the reason is often because whoever seeks his life will lose it, while whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Following Christ, opening the doors of our heart fully to him, place us right in the middle of this gospel paradox: forgetting ourselves is how we find ourselves, entering into the battle for the Kingdom is how we find peace.
3. The Ordinary Life. As soon as he has done his part, the angel disappears. We all have our moments of grace, special moments in life we would like to last forever, as if we would like the angel never to leave since there is something consoling and assuring about his extraordinary presence. Let us take a moment to reflect on Mary after the angel was gone. She was suddenly faced with the consequences of her decision, in real time, in real life. It is now a question of living out those consequences and making new decisions based on the word she had given to God through the angel. It is not unthinkable that humanly she felt very much alone, with many questions.
There are several possible ways of reacting to such a situation. We can go back on our word, we can allow doubt to creep in, we can rationalize and contemporize, we can look for other securities…, or we can do what Mary did. She had put her trust in God’s hands, she didn’t take it back, she stopped thinking of herself and she went to help her cousin. Mary, Mother most practical, Mother most charitable, pray for us!
Conversation: Lord Jesus, I admit that I often seek my personal peace and happiness, and think that I can attain it, by putting myself first. Help me to understand that, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:34). I fear this reality, Lord, but I trust in your word that, nothing is impossible with God. Enable me to do what seems impossible, putting aside all my self-interest and fear, allowing myself to hear and accept your word and your invitation. Holy Spirit, grant me the consolation of finding my vocation by following the example of Mary in the Annunciation. Fortify my heart and make it generous to give myself to you in total freedom, trust and love. Mary, I love you, I honor you, and I ask you to show me the way to your Son.
1. What does Mary’s openness to God teach me?
2. Am I looking for peace in the right places and in the right way?
3. How do I react in times of doubt and difficulty?