Scripture: Lectionary #11. II Samuel 7:1-5.8-11.16. Psalm 89:2-3.4-5.27.29. Romans 16:25-27. Luke 1:26-38
Advent has moved very quickly for all of us and now we are in the Fourth Week beginning with Vespers this Saturday evening. Mary now takes the role of John the Baptist and of Isaiah in the coming days. Her presence will help us to appreciate the coming of the Lord Jesus. We are attentive to her and we listen carefully to what the Scriptures are telling us about this young virgin from Nazareth who is engaged to Joseph.
The most perfect portrait of Mary is the one given to us by St. Luke the Evangelist of Mary. He does this not by painting her image, but through his great literary gifts and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we are able to imagine her so much more vividly.
The Annunciation that introduces her at this early stage in her life is in reality her vocation story. Luke has carefully painted this scene not with brush but with his words. She is being called to become the mother of the Messiah. We learn of this in the dialogue she has with Gabriel, one of the leading angels or messengers sent by God. This scene will be the last time he is explicitly mentioned in the Bible. Mary dialogues with the angel and questions him though fearing and pondering over what he is talking about. The dialogue enables her to listen to God speaking through Gabriel to her heart. She will say “yes” to the vocation and thus God’s word will be made flesh within her. Luke probably recalls a prophetic voice from the past saying something like this : “Shout for joy, O Daughter of Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! …the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortunate to fear.” (Zephaniah 3:14-15).
We are in the presence of Mary as we ponder over with her the angelic message. Our Advent is now more intense, more exciting, and close to its purpose—the bringing forth of the Messiah from the body of the Virgin Mary of Nazareth. She may be lowly and humble, but she is fully attentive, delightfully responding to the words given to her by the angel. She realizes that it is a messenger from God and responds with all her love to the call. This young woman is highly intelligent and courageous. She is given a new name by the angel: “The one who is highly graced, highly favored by the Lord”. Her yes opens us to doing the same to God’s call in our lives. All vocations start with a spiritual announcement and are represented in this call of Mary.
Her humanity is the same as ours and her faith is a model for ours as disciples of the Lord. We experience her advent of waiting and persevering with the promise of great expectations in the birth of a baby who will be named Jesus. We call this event Christmas, that is the mass of Christmas. The Eucharist thus forms the words of the Scripture for this day into the life giving body and blood of the Lord in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
With a love beyond all telling she will bring her son quietly into the world. This will be an event that will change the minds and hearts of many into listening for the voice of God in their lives. Salvation history is at its center in the manifestation of Mary’s birthing of Jesus. St. Paul alludes to this in saying Jesus is a mystery hidden for many ages but now manifested in the flesh of Jesus.
Lord, our God, give us the grace of listening with our hearts as the great event of Jesus’ birth comes near. Help us to keep reflecting on the gift of God—the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Amen.