On this busy Fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear the story of the Annunciation. I’ll sum it up briefly — The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her she’s going to be the Mother of God. She is deeply troubled and wonders how this can even be, as she’s never been with a man. Gabriel reassures her that she has found favor with God, and the Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive and bear a son and name him Jesus. Gabriel then tells Mary of her elderly barren cousin Elizabeth who has also conceived and assures her that nothing is impossible for God.
And Mary’s response?
“Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) This was Mary’s yes to God.
What does our yes to God look like?
Mary made her choice freely, but not without some trepidation. She was troubled and questioned how this could possibly come to be. Gabriel responds, “Do not be afraid be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” As disciples of Christ and spiritual children of Mary, we are called to take these words to heart in our own lives. Like Mary, being faithful to God’s call could very likely lead us to places of discomfort, hardship, and even fear.
Perhaps you’ve heard me share this before, but I feel it’s worth repeating, especially in light of today’s Gospel. When I received my calling from God to become a deacon, I was warned during formation about several things that may happen to me throughout formation, ordination, and living my life as a deacon. I was told some so-called friends might change their involvement in my life, and to recognize that if it happened, they really were not my friends. While that may make sense, it still hurts. I was told Satan would begin to challenge me in my faith, my family life, my job, so on and so forth. At that point in my life, I knew what God wanted me to do, and I wasn’t turning back. By echoing Mary’s words of courage and trust, “Be it done to me according to your word,” I had to place myself right alongside her and not be afraid.
Her words are a reminder that during even the darkest of times, we are not alone. That same Holy Spirit that came upon Mary has been promised to each of us; that we are always overshadowed by the Most High. God is with us as we wait for his return in glory. We are seen, we are known, we are loved. Emmanuel, God is with us!
Mary’s testimony and her response hopefully inspires us to also see ourselves in favor with God. Mary empathizes with our pain and suffering; she knows what it’s like to suffer. She asks similar questions like we do. Ultimately, the young woman from Nazareth trusted in God’s almighty power. She believed that indeed nothing is impossible for God. She believed God would lift up the lowly and bring the holiest of holies to life within her womb. In Mary’s reliance and trust in God’s word, the Kingdom takes root, just as it wishes to take root in each of us.
On this last day of Advent, let us spend some time in prayer with Mary, our Mother, asking her to increase our faith and trust in her Son, and to continue saying “yes,” especially as we celebrate His birth, and during this Holy Season of Christmas.
Peace of Christ and Merry Christmas,