Fourth Sunday of Advent 2017
First Reading: Second Book of Samuel: 7: 1-5, 8-12. 14. 16
Second Reading: Romans 16: 25-27
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke 1: 26 – 38
Today’s Gospel reading is the story contained in the Angelus – the story of the Incarnation – how Christ entered into our human story, and became like us in everything except our sin.
It has been said that Luke’s Gospel radiates the joy of salvation: this joy flows from a confidence in God’s love and mercy. The births of John the Baptist and Jesus are announced as causes of great joy. Luke used the Gospel of Mark as a source for his account of the story of Jesus. Luke’s account of the birth and infancy of Jesus is one of his finest creations. Mary is the model Christian disciple. Vatican 2 summarised the implications of Mary’s ‘Yes’ to God: “At the message of the angel, the Virgin Mary received the word of God in her heart and in her body, and gave life to the world.” (Vatican 2)
Nazareth, the home town of Mary and Joseph, was a long way from Jerusalem, the centre of
Jewish life and worship. Mary was young, poor, and female. Yet God chose Mary. God’s
favour does not automatically bring instant success or fame. His blessing on Mary, the
honour of being the mother of the Messiah, would lead to much pain: her peers would
ridicule her; her fiancé would come close to leaving her; her Son would be rejected and
murdered. But through her Son Mary would become the world’s only hope, and that is why
Mary has been praised by countless generations as the young girl who “found favour with
God,” and was part of God’s plan to bring about our salvation. Mary was deeply disturbed by
the angel’s greeting but was assured “Do not be afraid. You have found God’s favour.”
Mary said “Yes”. The angel left her and never returned. From that moment on, Mary’s faith
alone sustained her. Even as she stood beside her Son’s cross, she trusted “the promise made
by the Lord would be fulfilled” She did not know how! She surrendered in total faith. Mary’s
‘yes’ took her all the way to Calvary, where she stood in solidarity with her Son, as he
handed over his life to the Father. Ponder the faith dimension of your own journey in terms
of the mysteries of Joy, Sorrow, Glory and Light encountered in your lived experience.
With Mary proclaim your own “Magnificat”. For in your life too, ‘the Almighty has done
great things and Holy is his name.’ St. Luke had a great sense of the joy which comes with
receiving the good news. The gift of God which is received interiorly, wells up into praising
and blessing, glorifying and magnifying, rejoicing and leaping in celebratory dance. True joy
of the spirit is one of the surest signs of a life attuned to God’s presence. A first effect of
joy is the desire to share the experience with others: (cf. We cannot but speak about what we
have seen and heard.) Times of celebration, such as Christmas, put an extra strain on the
lonely and depressed who become more aware of what they are missing.
Those who share out of their joy know from experience that “it is in giving that we receive.”
Joy opens the eye to the uniqueness of the commonplace, to the goodness and quiet heroism
of people, to the honest satisfaction of labour. The Giver can be appreciated behind every
gift. The joy of believing means that one knows in the heart that “God so loved the world
that He gave His only Son.” Advent joy flows from the conviction that the Lord is very near.
Mary needed to journey to her cousin Elizabeth for three reasons. (1) She was moved with
compassion for her aged cousin who was to give birth to John the Baptist. (2) The deep
experience of God which came to her at the angel’s message was something she needed to
share with another. (Abraham, the first person to receive divine revelation, immediately set
out on a journey from his own home. The familiar world of everyday experience is no longer
large enough to contain the experience.) (3) It was a source of great joy to Mary when she
saw that Elizabeth too had been gifted by the Holy Spirit. Mary was chosen by God to be
the personal way of God’s journey into our lives to embrace us in his healing and uplifting
hands. The story of the Visitation is a joy for all of us as it was for Elizabeth as she greeted
Mary: “The infant in my womb leapt for joy.”
Points for group reflection and sharing
- What has been your own experience of God’s presence in times of mystery and uncertainty in your life?
- When Mary hears God’s plan, she is puzzled and asks, “How can this come about?” In what ways have you asked the same question as you became aware of plans and details regarding your own life situations at various stages?
- The angel tells Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you”. In what ways did God communicate the same message to you in your faith journey? Recall the times you have been acutely aware of the Holy Spirit at work in your life?
- May we be alert to the signs God sends us, striving to discover what God wants for the Church and for the world, and eager to do what God demands. Lord, hear us.
- May our lives reflect the teaching of the gospel by our integrity, our honesty, and our faithfulness to the example of Jesus. Lord, hear us.
- In these last days of Advent, may we be filled with joy and peace! Like Joseph, may we have confidence in God, trusting our God to care for us all the days of our life. Lord, hear us.