For the last two Sundays, John the Baptist has called upon us to prepare our hearts, minds and ways of life to be renewed by a sense of Jesus coming among us at His Birth. We also see that life is a preparation for our personal completion of our pilgrimage and we want to be ready for the time the Lord comes to take us with Him. This Sunday it is Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, who is given to us to help us to have the disposition which will give us a fruitful and blessed Christmas and life lessons for the year ahead.
Mary as the Mother of God and our Heavenly Mother strikes a powerful note with us. Mothers have a special bond with their children. A mother makes her child’s welfare her vocation. John the Baptist reminds us that we only hear the Word of God to the extent that we love it. Mary strengthens this as her life teaches you can only know her Child to the extent we love Him. I met a student who was doing a theology degree but didn’t believe there was a God –it was just an academic exercise. Mary as Mother of Jesus wants her Son to be as real to us as He is to her. To know Jesus is real is a life transforming realization/relationship. We can’t just know Jesus is real (fully God and fully Man); we LIVE Jesus Who is real. How can Mary help us?
Gratitude: Why Mary? Because God chose her. God’s choosing of Mary makes her worthy. As Mary says: “Because he has looked on his lowly handmaid”. Mary humbly accepts God’s choice. We are reminded of our individual calling by God to us – our vocation. What is this? Like Mary we must bring Jesus to humanity. Mary’s mission and ours is the same. Mary teaches us how to fully respond to our status as chosen ones. As St. Paul teaches us: God chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless and to live through love in His presence (Eph.1). Note the angel gives Mary a new name: Full of Grace. So often God changes the name of the person He calls, John (the Baptist) not Zechariah, Simon to Peter and Saul to Paul. Why does God do this? Because the call of God is to a new, intense, particular way of living. We must feel anew our new identity as believing Christians. When God called us He gave us a new way of living, of existing. We must take up our new identity every morning we wake. We leave the house as consecrated people, member of the Body of Christ to bear Christ to others in all we think, say and do: our new way of living!
A new perspective: “Be it done unto me” is one of the most powerful phrases of Holy Scripture. Mary teaches us to do God’s life giving will and to set aside all other considerations. Mary as a young woman had her plans and aspirations. She gladly, and trustingly, acquiesces to God’s Holy Will and accepts how life will now be for her. I often wonder if my prayers of petition are actually contrary to God’s will. I should be asking for the graces to accept His will. I am sure this would be the more fruitful approach. Mary will help me with this.
Mary’s “Yes”. What the Angel asked of Mary was enormous and overwhelming. To be the Mother of God! You would think this young teenage woman would feel it was all beyond her. But Mary doesn’t say “No”, she goes straight to “How?”. This is very helpful to us. When God’s will and plan bring something challenging to our door of duty we are relieved that, like Mary, we are allowed to be curious. How we are to cope? We haven’t the wherewithal to succeed. How God is going to do His work successfully through us and our life story isn’t always apparent to us. Mary accepts the angel’s reassurance that the Holy Spirit will always bring a life filled and blessed outcome if only we trust in God’s love. Mary teaches us that happiness, freedom and fulfilment are more likely to be found in the acceptance of duty rather that its avoidance. Also, this must not be a grim or stoical approach to God’s will. Mary shows us, only a loving acceptance of how God wants it to be will do.
Be open to the Holy Spirit. I feel in my prayer life I do not give enough attention the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. I pray the “Our Father” and I feel I want to live like Jesus. I forget that it is the Holy Spirit that keeps me alive and the world turning. I couldn’t draw breath without the power of the Paraclete. I would immediately cease to exist were it not for the sustenance of the Holy Spirit. In my darkest moments, maybe like me, you sometimes think our issues are insurmountable. Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, had endured being called barren and, miraculously is in her sixth month of pregnancy. I need to hear the Angel Gabriel’s words: “Nothing is impossible to God. NOTHING!!!”
At this stage of Advent, I ask myself: “What needs topping up in my life?”. Mary was called full of grace. God wants us to have life to the full. The Lord fills the earth with His love. It’s God’s nature to seek to come so fully into us that all that hurts, saddens or diminishes us is displaced. This Advent I must check my spiritual cupboard and ask, “What essential provisions am I low on?”. We all have needs particular to our situations. It may be hope or joy, peace or confidence. Let us have enough oil in our lamp for future demands. Give the Lord your list. The answer will be given in your heart, not under the tree.
A little girl went to Father Christmas and he enquired as to what present would she like? She answered, “Didn’t you get my email?”. The virus has caused a certain distance to be necessary between us and contact is carefully regulated. This apartness does not sit well with us. It is very encouraging that today’s Gospel reminds us of the joy that God’s communication is always intensely personal. The bond between Blessed Mother and Divine Child will carry us all forward to better times. Remember: All is possible for God.
Fr. Gerard X