My Dear Parishioners:
As we now move into the Fourth Week of Advent and the final Sunday of this great season, we hear a very familiar Scripture story of the Angel Gabriel and the words delivered to Mary. How many times have we heard this Scripture read? If it is very familiar to us, we should make the effort to hear it now with fresh ears.
First, we need a word about Mary. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once described her as a woman deeply imbued with the Word of God in Holy Scripture. Reflecting on her Magnificat, he wrote: “Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the Word of God, with what ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the Word of God; the Word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the Word of God” (Deus Caritas Est, 41). She knew the Old Testament inside and out!
I am humbled at Mary’s response: “May it be done to me according to your word.” Here she chooses to submit to God’s plan for her life with Him, letting go of her own. In doing so, she had to embrace the possibility of misunderstanding and even shame associated with seemingly breaking her vow of virginity. In Eden, Eve listened to the fallen angel’s lie about God, as he made her feel weak and duped if she believed God’s Word. Not wanting the shame that he suggested comes with dependency on God, she chose to disobey. Mary’s “yes” opened her to a world of complications! However, when she chose God’s way over her own, on the spot she became the new Eve—“the woman” whose “seed” would crush the head of the serpent, once for all.
When Mary first appears in the pages of Scripture, she is in the presence of a magnificent angel. Four times in Scripture, the angel Gabriel leaves the heavenly presence of God to come to men and women uniquely chosen and blessed by God — and he always brings a message of hope! He came twice to the prophet Daniel to assure him in the dark days of Israel’s captivity that the Lord God had not forgotten his people or his promises to bless them (Daniel 8:15-16; 9:21). Five hundred years later Gabriel appeared to an old priest as he served in the temple (Luke 1:19). The angel told Zechariah that God had not forgotten his people. God’s plan was right on schedule. Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son who would prepare the way for the Messiah, the Lord himself. Now six months after the announcement to Zechariah, Gabriel is sent by God again to a little town in Palestine. He comes to announce to a teenage girl that she has been chosen by God to bear in her body the holy Son of God. God is coming to earth.
Think about this amazing scene. How much it fulfills and foretells! Yet all of it reminds us of this one great fact: God keeps His promises. What good news to people like us, who are waiting in Advent to see the Lord, Who has promised to come to us and not leave us orphans. He will not disappoint.
This, above all, is a season of hope and a season of fulfillment. God will have his way. So as we move from shopping, cooking, wrapping, eating, visiting, planning, and celebrating, let us not forget God and the gift of his Son through the Most Blessed Virgin, Mary, our Mother. Everything we do in preparation for Christmas is truly to remind us of who we are and who we hope to become.
Happy Advent! Fr. John