“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
In today’s gospel reading, we see the power and beauty of Advent distilled and concentrated in the exchange between the Angel Gabriel and Mary. God sent the Angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee called Nazareth. No place on earth could have been more ordinary.
The Angel Gabriel came, not to Rome but to a village on the edge of the empire, not to the wife of Herod, nor to the wife of Caesar, who himself was pretending to be a god, but to a young peasant woman who was engaged to a tradesman. Infinite God reaches out to finite humanity in the person of a young woman, probably a teenager, named Mary. With her, as with us, God takes the initiative.
Mary is the faithful one who believes that the promises made to her by the Lord will be fulfilled. She is the lowly handmaiden, the obedient servant; she is the one person most prepared to empty herself to receive the Lord.
And Gabriel said to Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God. This child will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and he will occupy the throne of his ancestor David.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
When God calls us, what is our response, what do we say?
Sometimes we say, “Yes, here am I.” But perhaps more often we are reluctant. The prophet Jeremiah said, “I’m too young.” The prophet Isaiah said, “I’m a man of unclean lips.” Gideon said, “I’m the least of men; surely you don’t mean me.” Moses said, “I stutter; send someone else to pharaoh.” The only one I know of who immediately said “yes” is Mary: “Be unto me according to your word.”
Mary had total faith in God and God’s love. Could anyone who did not believe completely in God’s love have said, “Yes?” And with Mary’s “Yes,” God was able to bring his gift, Jesus, into the world.
Luke says Mary was “perplexed” by what the Angel said to her. Deciding to say “yes” doesn’t mean Mary wasn’t afraid. It does mean that she was unwilling to let her fear stop her from what she knew in her heart was right. Mary was troubled, as we can be troubled. We too can be troubled for good reason when called to a new way of seeing and doing, which can be risky and uncertain.
In a sense, Advent is God’s invitation to new and renewed life with him. Meister Eckhart, German theologian and mystic, wrote in the 13th century, “What good is it to me if Mary is full of grace, if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to His Son, if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?” Is God inviting you to allow His Son to be born anew in you, in your time and place?
Now, in this Fourth Sunday of Advent, God is inviting us to allow Him to live his life in us in new and creative ways. Each one of us is given the opportunity to be a God-bearer, as Mary was. We are invited to carry God to everyone we meet, offering God by means of our thoughtfulness, our kindness and caring concern for others.
We may be physically distanced because of the pandemic, but we are not called to be socially or spiritually disconnected. Indeed, we demonstrate our love of neighbor by the precautions we take to mitigate the spread of the covid-virus.
When Mary said, “Yes,” the world was changed forever. She is an example of what can happen when we accept the fact that God notices, favors, and blesses us. The world can be changed through our “yes.” When we say “Yes, let it be with me according to your word,” in response to God’s invitation, the angels in heaven rejoice and the life of Christ is born anew.
Greetings, favored ones! The Lord is with you. God has great hopes and dreams for you. The Holy Spirit is with you and will guide you into all truth that you may be a blessing to this world. Amen.
Resources: Synthesis, 2008, 2014, 2017; David Lose, 2014, 2017, 2020.