The Fourth Sunday of Advent [B]
2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-11,16 + Romans 16:25-27 + Luke 1:26-38
December 20, 2020
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Today’s Gospel Reading presents the Annunciation. Notice that it’s a dialogue: the angel speaks, and Mary speaks. The angel brings the message of God’s plan for Mary’s life: “You shall conceive and bear a son, and give him the name Jesus.” But this is not a matter of Gabriel offering dictation from God to Mary, for God is not a dictator. God’s respect for Mary’s free will is absolute. The message of Gabriel demands a response from Mary, and the second part of the dialogue is Mary’s response.
Mary responds in two ways: she asks a question, and gives a reply. First, the question of Mary is very important for us to consider, since it shows us that Mary is a woman of purpose. She does not arbitrarily accept God’s will any more than God arbitrarily imposed it. Mary’s question: “How can this be?” does not show us a woman who doubts God’s Will, but who ponders it in her heart. The angel’s answer to her question does not change her mind, because she was always of one mind. What her question shows is that her mind always searched for God as much as her will.
Each of us can pinpoint some situation in one’s life, which very possibly was from God, which challenged one to respond in a Christian manner. The first thing that the Annunciation shows us is that we should not worry about pondering it over, about asking questions. God does not dictate our actions to us. He demands that we ponder them in faith, asking the questions that need to be asked.
The second part of Mary’s response to Gabriel makes us realize that there was never any doubt about what Mary’s reply to God would be. She proclaims, “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” The angelic word of message gives rise to the human word of consent: “Fiat”, meaning “your will is my response.” Certainly Mary’s question had not prejudiced her reply. After all, Gabriel’s answer to her question was to point out that her cousin Elizabeth, an elderly woman, was in her sixth month of pregnancy. Gabriel was simply heaping one miracle upon another. He may have made it clear that God was at work, but he certainly didn’t make it clear how or why all this was going on. And yet, Mary’s response was the same: “Fiat”, “your will is my will.”
If we turn our minds back to those situations that challenge our Christian faith, we realize that God does often respond to our questions, yet not always in the way we would wish. He can show us different signs that might convince us what His will is, but those aren’t necessarily going to explain to us why His will is what it is (and we should not expect them to do so). We can ask questions of God to help us circle around or probe the questions in our minds, but once we are assured of what that will is, any hesitation becomes doubt.
Acting as Mary does in this scene, with complete faith, is an example for our own spiritual lives. In many ways, God makes His plan for our lives clear. Is our reply to God just as clear, however?
This last message of the Gospel before the Christmas Season starts helps us realize that as we search for God’s will, humility is the virtue we must have. We cannot savor the joy of Christmas without living out the humility of Advent. Advent is a season of humble expectation.
Our prayer then, in these last days of the Advent Season should be a prayer of petition, asking God to help us grow in humility. For if we have prepared a straight path into our hearts for the Lord to travel, we still must meet Him there with humility, for fear of offending Him. After His journey from heaven to earth, where He seeks to dwell at the very center of our hearts, what sort of response would it be to meet Him there closed to the plan He has for our lives? May Mary be our model of simple and gentle acceptance, hearing and heeding the plan He has for our lives.