Homily for the fourth Sunday of Advent

Year B - Lk. 1:26-38


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.


"And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "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, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her."





Homily:


"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, 'Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!' But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be."


During the time of Advent, the Church, through the gospel, has frequently spoken to us of John the Baptist. He was mentioned these past two Sundays, as well as several times in the weekday celebrations. He is surely a person who is extraordinary, so much so that Saint John the evangelist - as we saw last week - speaks about him in the very prologue of his gospel, presenting him as he who must bear witness to the Light which came into the world: Jesus of Nazareth.


However, something strange happened in Nazareth despite John the Baptist not being present: the coming into the world of the Son of God! The most significant event in the life of Christ did not have as a witness he who was to bear witness to the Light of the world. For, when the Son of God took on flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist had only been conceived six months earlier, and was not yet born... It is strange, mysterious... It truly seems as if God was a little early here... Or rather, it is we who were late... However, all of this explains why Mary was troubled by the words of the Angel Gabriel.


In fact, there was a great change, a profound upheaval, in the order of things: from that point on, Evil is conquered by God become Man, the era of the domination of sin was overthrown and the everlasting era of peace and grace was begun. From the time of Christ's conception, the Mystical Body of Christ began to exist, as its Head (cf. Col. 1:18). And from that precise moment, all those who are called to be a part of that glorious and mystical Body of Christ were in a state of gestation, awaiting their birth into eternal life. All this, of course, does not exclude the presence of sin in the world, but now sin is conquered by the grace of God. Thus, this was not accomplished without suffering and pain: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now." (Rm. 8:22)


"And the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.' And Mary said to the angel, 'How shall this be, since I have no husband?' And the angel said to her, '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.'"


The Angel's conversation with Mary is eloquent: there is no talk of sin being erased by the Blood of Sacrifice. For, in her, everything is pure and immaculate! Both the Son and his Mother are without stain! There is no sin in God, and Mary is "full of grace"! Anyone who compares what the Angel said to Mary with what he said to Joseph in announcing the maternity of his future spouse will see that, in Joseph's case, there was indeed mention made of the sins of the People of God (cf. Mt. 1:21), but in speaking to Mary, the Angel announces to her the glory of Christ, eternally reigning over the house of Jacob.


But while Mary was indeed full of grace, she remains nonetheless a woman, a human being who reasons and searches for explanations for what she does not understand: "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" This is a crucial question for Mary. For she had made a vow of virginity, she had consecrated herself completely to God, and she had no wish for carnal marriage, at any price. In wishing to remain a virgin, Mary did not want to do her own will: on the contrary, she knew with certainty, through the fullness of grace that was in her, that this was what God wanted for her. So, the words of the Angel provide the one and only solution: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." This means that God can do anything, for he is all-powerful. And as the Angel said a little later, speaking of Elizabeth, Mary's cousin: "Nothing is impossible to God."


"'And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.' And Mary said, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her."


If the Son of God came into the world, it was to hear, through his Angel and through his Holy Spirit, Mary's "fiat": "Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum." "Let it be to me according to your word." From that point on, accompanied by his blessed Mother, he, the Son of God, could humble himself to the point of dying on the Cross. For the grace of Mary, this plenitude of grace which predestined her to this marvellous and unique work, had to be merited in order that, day after day, until the glorious return of Christ at the end of time, all the elect would be able to become participants in the Passion and the Resurrection.


During the feast of Christmas which approaches, when, for each of us, the Lord will come into our life to make us members of his Body, let us try to answer him without hesitation: "Let it be to me according to your word." May Mary help us to accomplish this generous act which saves the world!