4th Sunday of Advent B

Nothing is Impossible!

Mrs. Marie Norton of Elmira, New York, died in the fall of 1951, admired and praised by all who had known her. Before she had any children, she was afflicted with cancer, and physicians advised her against becoming pregnant. But Marie decided to ignore advice and leave matters in God’s hands. She went ahead and brought ten children into the world, and they were healthy children. When her brother-in-law lost his wife, she took his children in, too. It was no easy chore to keep house for such a brood, but she did it and was also her own cook and laundress.

Had Marie’s malady vanished? By no means. For thirty-five years she was under treatment for malignancies and submitted to as much radium therapy as her body could tolerate. Forty-two times she went under the surgeon’s knife.

After Marie’s death her son-in-law’s mother wrote a letter to the paper in praise of Mrs. Norton. “As I observed her giving, besides services, joy and sunshine … to us all, it has left me with a new reverence, a feeling that I have witnessed something this sick world needs today… an assurance that God does hear and answer those who love and trust Him.” Yes, He hears and He gives us of Himself: the supreme Christmas gift was His beloved Son

“… For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke, 1:37. Gospel of the day).

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q. 350: In today’s gospel (Luke 1:26-38), a divine messenger (Gabriel) brings Mary the awesome news of the forthcoming Incarnation of the Messiah, and we hear the Blessed Virgin Mary’s assent. Other than “rejoicing” at the memory of this long-awaited Good News, where can my meditation take me?

Mary’s response to God can lead us in many directions, but today let’s focus on just two points. The context, of course, is Mary’s humble submission of her will to God’s will in all things, and the fact that the “birthing process” began at that very moment of her “Yes.”

There is a Dominican mystic from the 14th century that is often quoted, because his words capture so well our own participation in this birthing process. Meister Eckhart asks the questions that we all ought to consider. First he asks: “What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?” Mary’s “Yes” that brought Christ to the world is not just a “memory event,” such as recalling Babe Ruth or Tiger Woods setting records to remember. Instead, it ought to lead us to ponder how to imitate her: how can I bring Christ to the daily world that I live and participate in? Do I reflect Christ in what I say and do? Am I a true disciple, like Mary the model disciple?

A second question that Meister Eckhart asks: “What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son . . . does not take place within myself?” When God comes to dwell within us at our Baptism, we are empowered to live the Christ-life, one oriented to loving God and Neighbor. Do I see that orientation in my own heart, or am I still oriented to selfishness? Do I humbly submit to all of the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church, without exception, so that its wisdom can grow in my heart?

In summary, in a sense your personal meditation can parallel Mary’s journey: have I truly given an unqualified “Yes” to Jesus in my own life, and what is the best way for me to bring this Good News to my own little world?

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Mary and all the Saints have one thing in common: they “will His will alone” (CCC #2827). This is our life, our desire and our destiny: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to Your word” (CCC #2817). Mary is the perfect model of the “obedience of faith” that we disciples are all called to imitate (CCC #148).

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Q507: I am not called to be “Mother of God,” so how can today’s gospel (Lk 1:26-38) speak to me?

Can you imagine the wonder and excitement that must have been stirred up in Mary’s heart? Think about it: God’s plan of salvation is taking a giant step towards fulfillment, by means of this young girl! And of course, she has to share the news with someone, so she goes dashing off to help her cousin Elizabeth prepare to give birth to John the Baptist.

It is Mary’s heart that is being modeled for us today. She clearly had a humble heart, trusting totally in God. She also clearly had a prayer life that kept her tuned in to God’s will at all times. So when the “invitation” came to become the mother of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, there was only one trusting answer for her to give: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary is the “Theotókos,” as the early church called her, the “God-bearer” (a title given by the ecumenical Council of Ephesus, 431 AD). And now you and I are also being requested by God to be “God-bearers,” but in a different, two-fold sense. We are privileged by our baptismal commitment to be true disciples who can both carry and spread the Good News about God’s plan of salvation through Messiah Jesus. And we are also privileged to correct injustices like poverty and discrimination wherever we can, carrying out the will of Jesus Christ.

In a spiritual sense, you too can become a “mother” by giving birth to the fruits of stewardship through your actions! You too are called to bring Christ to others. Stewardship includes voting correctly, praying for God’s help, assisting the poor as much as possible, and sharing the gift of our discipleship rather than selfishly hoarding it.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The “obedience of faith” demands that we respond to God’s will regarding moral and ethical matters in our life and in society itself (CCC #494). God’s design of redemption and salvation includes you carrying out your part of the plan.

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Surprise! Surprise!

From the days of the Exodus, God’s consoling presence among his people was symbolized in the tabernacle or tent, the sanctuary or dwelling place of God . When the people moved, the tent of his presence was moved with them. But now they were settled in the land. No more wandering–they thought. David had the idea of building a more permanent dwelling for God’s presence. “Do what you have a mind to” said the prophet Nathan. But God had something else in mind; he would build a house for David–a dynasty that would stand forever. Even though his descendants proved unworthy of the promise, Israel was confident that they were secure, for God was committed. God had other ideas. David’s descendants were toppled from the throne, and Israel went into captivity. How could they reconcile this with God’ promise? Psalm 89 prays to God to remember his promise, so they began to look forward to a restoration under a warrior king messiah of the Davidic dynasty. But once again God had other ideas — a messiah born of a virgin in a stable who would establish a boundless kingdom of love and service as he reigns from the cross.

Lord, help us to learn the lesson of Scripture. We plan to do thus and so, and get things just the way we want them. But God may have other ideas. Help us to see that and to accept it lovingly, and faithfully follow whatever new path you may open for us.

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