Today’s Gospel reading is referred to as “The Annunciation”. It describes the Angel Gabriel’s visit and announcement to Mary that she would conceive the Son of God.
However, this Gospel is not just retelling a story that happened 2,000 years ago. This event has meaning for us today. The Annunciation presents Mary to us a role model for Advent.
The natural question to ask is: “How can this be?” The Church teaches that Mary was conceived without sin and remained sinless throughout her life.
So, how can someone like that be a model for us?
It is important to remember that these privileges do not negate the fact that Mary was totally human. Mary was not divine. We do not adore or worship Mary. God alone is the subject of worship. We honour Mary. The best way to venerate Mary is to imitate her virtues.
Mary was the first disciple of Jesus. She is the perfect servant of God. She is the perfect witness to the Gospel. Thus, she continues to be the perfect model of the Christian life.
I would like us to reflect on three aspects of Mary’s strong faith and solid discipleship that are worthy of imitation.
First, Mary shows us how to say “yes” to God. In this scene, we see Mary in the fullness of her humanity. Mary was troubled and confused by the angel’s greeting. Gabriel is keenly aware of her anxiety and encourages her by responding, “Do not be afraid”.
The point is that, although God was honoring Mary by choosing her to be the mother of Jesus Christ, Mary had a choice to make. God did not force himself upon Mary. She could have said, “No”.
Even though she lacked complete understanding, Mary gave an absolute “yes” to God. She made the decision to give herself entirely to God. Her trust in God was total. She allowed herself to fall in love with God and to let go, to surrender. “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.” By her faith and obedience, Mary made the decision to cooperate freely with God and his designs.
What happened to Mary can happen to us. In the fullness of our humanity, we may be confused, fearful and uncertain. As was the case with Mary, God’s message to us is “Do not be afraid”. Matthew Kelly, an American spiritual writer, puts its this way: “God knows that we are afraid. He knows that it takes courage to do anything worth doing in this world. The measure of our lives will be the measure of our courage. So, let’s place our fears in God’ s hands and ask him to transform our fears into courage”.
As God chose Mary, God is choosing us in December 2020 and is inviting us to say “yes” to him. We can follow Mary’s example of trust in God. With our whole hearts, we can embrace the will of God and commit ourselves to his work even though we may not know much about it or where it will lead. We, too, can respond by falling in love with God, by letting go of our points of view, wants, and desires and by serving God.
Second, Mary shows us how to be open to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
As a result of the action of the Holy Spirit in her life, Mary heard the word of God and acted upon it. She agreed to change her agenda and adopt God’s agenda for her life. Consequently, the unimaginable happened. She became both virgin and mother, “for nothing is impossible with God”.
What happened to Mary can happen to us. We are overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in our Baptism and Confirmation. We receive the same Holy Spirit that Mary received. It’s not a second-class version or a watered-down version of the Holy Spirit. Baptism and Confirmation give us the power to be “temples of the Holy Spirit”.
Today’s Gospel challenges us to be open and sensitive to the workings of the Holy Spirit who lives inside us so that we, too, can hear the word of God and act upon it. What does it mean to hear the Word of God? God communicates to us in 6 basic ways: creation, prayer, the Scriptures, the sacraments, the Church and other people. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it is possible for us to welcome the voice of the Lord with an open heart and to accept God’s plan for us. Then, as was the case with Mary, God can accomplish something good in and through us.
Third, Mary shows us how to bring Christ into the world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary became pregnant with Christ. She received Jesus in her body. She let his life swell up inside her and finally, delivered Christ to the world.
What happened to Mary can happen to us. As Mary was the recipient of a miracle, we are recipients of a miracle this afternoon. In a few moments, a miracle will take place on this altar. Jesus Christ himself will become present under the appearances of bread and wine. At communion, like Mary, we will receive Jesus into our bodies. He will come to us and make his dwelling in us. The Son of God will unite himself to us intimately.
However, this is not the end of the story. At the end of each Mass, the priest or deacon sends the people out into the world. One of the options for the dismissal is “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”. (I will use this option this afternoon.) These words invite us be God’s messengers and the instruments of an Annunciation right here in Sudbury.
Our responsibility is to let Jesus’ life take root within us so that we can deliver him to our world to the people we meet and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Each time we reject the bad and choose the good, we are bringing Christ into our community. When we respond to others with compassion and forgiveness, we are giving birth to Jesus in our world. Through our love, Christ’s love becomes visible in human form. We become the body, heart, hands and feet of Jesus and make him present in our daily lives.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, who lived from 1896 to 1985, was the founder of Madonna House. She wrote: “We are called to incarnate Christ in our lives, to clothe our lives with him, so that people can see him in us, touch him in us, recognize him in us”.
Today’s Gospel presents 3 of Mary’s virtues which merit imitation. Her “yes” to God, her response to God’s gift of the Holy Spirit and her willingness to bring Christ into the world sum up the essence of Christian living.
As our Eucharist continues, let us pray that what God has accomplished in Mary, He may accomplish in us during these final days of Advent.
December 19, 2020 Deacon Roland Muzzatti