Dec. 22, 1996
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Lk 1, 26-38
ON THE last Sunday before Christmas, the Church focuses on how it all began. One might wonder why this Gospel of the Annunciation wasn't proclaimed the first Sunday of Advent, as a start to the season. We already heard the same Gospel on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, just a few weeks ago. Why bother to repeat it again today?
The reason is very important. God wants us to enter into the mystery of the Incarnation being deeply united to the Blessed Mother. We have waited longingly all Advent for the coming of Jesus. The Blessed Mother is given to us now to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the gift of her Son. United in Mary, at Christmas we can love the Infant Jesus—not just with our own love, but with the very love of the Mother of God.
This Gospel reveals the tender devotion that God shows Mary; and it summons us to join him in giving Mary that same devotion. At the same time, the Gospel invites us into the saving encounter between Mary and the archangel, so that we might share in the powerful graces imparted in that exchange.
Upon arriving in Nazareth, the first thing Gabriel does is to declare God's happiness with Mary. He states it several ways: “Highly favored daughter. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” Before announcing her vocation, the angel wants Mary to be convinced of how much delight God takes in her. And he wants Mary actively to share in that delight: “Rejoice!” Knowledge of the profound delight God takes in us fills us with the faith and fortitude to carry out his will. Our union with the Blessed Mother assures us of just how much God is pleased with us, bolstering us to embrace the graces of Christmas.
Our closeness to the Blessed Mother frees us from fear. Mary could accept the miracle of conceiving the “Son of the Most High” because of the wonder of divine power she experienced at that moment: When the angel commanded her, “Do not fear, Mary,” Mary was fearful no longer. The same God who can liberate us from the most enslaving fears is he who is capable of effecting the greatest wonders in our life, if we let him. God gives us Mary at Christmas so that, through her, we can confide our fears to him. In response, the Lord blesses us with the same confidence and strength that transform Mary. He gives us the name of Jesus.
God gives us the Blessed Mother at Christmas to help us believe in all the impossibility that the Incarnation defies. He does not want us to confront the apparent bleakness and hopelessness of our life alone. Christmas is a time of new beginning; of God breaking through the darkness to come into our lives; of proving that “nothing is impossible for God.” The Lord blesses us with his Mother, that we might espouse her own trust in this great truth.
Father Cameron is a professor of homiletics at St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y.