4th Sunday of Advent 2011

18 December 2011

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11,16
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

There is a wonderful story of a four year old child. On reaching her fourth birthday, her parents decided that it was time for her to sleep in a room of her own. As the mother put her to bed that night, she said – “you are now a big girl with your own room: there is no need for you to be afraid. We will always be near you”. Some time later the mother quietly came to the room and heard the little girl crying – who then said to her mother. “I am frightened here, I do not want to be alone”. “You are not alone”, the mother said, “God is here with you”. “I know God is here, but right now I need someone with skin”.

Today in the gospel we hear of a God who wants to come to us with skin. His love for us is so great that he decided to come amongst us as one like us in all things except sin. But he decided he needed help from a human being to bring this about. In his great humility he decided to ask a young Jewish woman Mary. This reminds us that God never forces his way into our lives. He shows us great respect and courtesy by asking our permission as he did in the case of Mary.

mary_motherSo God’s choice of us has nothing to do with our virtue or goodness. The focus always has to be on God’s totally free and mysterious choice. God always chooses those whom he wants and very often it is the opposite of what we humans would do. In today’s gospel there is no point in asking what Mary did to deserve God’s gifts, God’s choice of her. She is ‘full of grace and blessed among women’ and she received God’s gifts simply because of God’s incredible love. It is not Mary’s effort that we must focus on or discover but rather God’s love and goodness that we must discern. No one amongst us deserves God’s choice of us, God’s election. The gifts and favors, which we have received from God, reflect the generosity of God, not the worthiness of the receiver.  Mary is blessed because of God and so are we.

But Mary was not a robot; she did not have to cooperate with God. When the angel went to her, the text does not say Mary was at prayer. She could have been working about the house or gardening. We cannot determine how or when God comes to us. The really important fact was that Mary heard God’s call and responded to it. She was afraid of what was being asked of her and yet she questioned God’s call to see how could it be possible and that’s o.k. with God. He treats us as intelligent beings who can ask questions as we seek the way forward. Then she accepts God’s invitation and says ‘yes’ but is not given any certainty about how the future will unfold. The only assurance that she is given is that the Holy Spirit will be with her and that nothing is impossible for God. This is enough for Mary who then gives her consent and trusts God totally.

Perhaps the greatness of Mary was that her ‘yes’ to God allowed God into our world in a way never experienced up to that moment. Her ‘yes’ meant that Jesus was able to come amongst us as someone like ourselves, fully human. Mary’s heart was open to God and it allowed great things to be done to her.

As we reach this last Sunday of Advent, the last before Christmas we have the same capacity. Every time we say ‘yes’ to God, we allow God to enter into our world. Our ‘yes’ maybe a response to God’s invitation to forgive someone, to visit a sick person, to help a poor person, to give more time to God in prayer, to attend our parish Reconciliation Service.

Mary made Christmas possible just as Jesus’ ‘yes’ to his Father made salvation possible for us. In fact, Jesus entered the world through the power of the Spirit when Mary said yes to the angel.

Mary’s womb was empty to receive Jesus. Will we have an empty area in our hearts also or will we be filled with time given to shopping, visiting, and celebrating? Each of these has its place. Mary did no preaching, no miracles, she wasn’t at the Last Supper but she gave Jesus to our world. She is the greatest of humans simply because whatever God asked of her in mostly very ordinary things in life, like visiting a pregnant cousin Elizabeth, being sensitive to the couple in Cana at whose wedding feast the wine ran out, standing by Jesus in his agony on the cross, she did. These things we all can do: visit people in need, be sensitive to the wants of others, and stay with others as they suffer.

Mary was no great theologian or philosopher. Because Jesus spent nine months next to her heart in the womb and because she spent nearly all the 33 years of his life close to Jesus, she can help us to stay close to Jesus too and to hear his voice and respond as she did. Do we pray to God for help before making important decisions, choices in life?

“Lord Jesus, thank you for the choice of Mary and the choice of each of us who have received the great gift of faith. May we like her always be under the influence of the Holy Spirit so that you can also do great things through us in our world today.  Amen”.

Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA