Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Do not be afraid! God has great plans for each of us, just as He had for Mary. It is for us to listen to His word, to be open to the Spirit moving within us, and to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God.

There is an ancient painting depicting the Annunciation with the Holy Spirit coming over Mary through her ear. How strange! Except, when we understand that the word obey is rooted in the Latin oboedire, which means to move toward what you hear or, more simply, “to listen.” Mary heard the announcement of the angel Gabriel, the word of the Lord for her, and moved toward the word that she heard. She listened, and obeyed. “May it be done to me according to your word.”

This is why the Church exalts Mary as the model disciple. She heard the word of the Lord for her and she obeyed. She was not concerned with the details of how she might fulfill God’s word at the time of her fiat, her acceptance of God’s word for her. She only heard God’s word for her and handed herself over to God to be done with according to that word. Such faith! Such trust! Such courage! It’s as if the encouraging word of the angel, “Do not be afraid,” took immediate effect in her. That is what “encourage” means – to fill with courage. Mary was filled with that courage when the angel spoke God’s word to her. How could it be otherwise? How could she have embraced her mission without the gift of courage given to her?

It seems to me that all of the saints have three qualities in common: trust, obedience, and courage. It is because of their trust in the Lord that they are so willing to obey His word without hesitation, and it is because of their courage that they are able to live out their lives of obedience to His word for each of them. Mary, being the Queen of All Saints, exhibited these qualities above all.

Being the model of discipleship, she is our model, our example to follow in trust, obedience, and courage in carrying out whatever word God speaks to us. Pray for us, Holy Mother of God!

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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