Saturday, December 17, 2011
Fourth Sunday of Advent
I love Advent. As far as I’m concerned, it could be five weeks instead of four. Most people might say they can’t wait for Christmas, but to look ahead to Christmas while just marking time in Advent makes no sense to me. That’s like being surrounded by family on a joyous Christmas day and saying, “gee I can’t wait for the fourth of July.” As you look forward to another gift, you can miss the one you’re living in right now. Sometimes that happens to us at Advent. We get caught up in all the holiday hoopla and forget where we are. Now, a disclaimer is needed here. Something about me which may help explains the love I have for Advent. A number of years back, somebody asked my wife Pat what she thought we’d be doing if we hadn’t gotten married. She said she’d probably be a medical missionary and that I would probably be a monk. She’s got a point. I am drawn toward prayer in solitude, and to meditating on the mystery of God’s gift of love, of salvation to us. And what better season to spend time with that than Advent! It is a tremendous gift of love, complete love that God gives us. In Advent, we can open our hearts to this love by meeting God, continuing to clear a way in our heart for him to be one with us. That’s what Advent is about. And that’s really what Christmas is about. Christ being born in our hearts, God present in the room we have readied for him within ourselves. In the first reading, David wants to give God a gift…a spiffy new home for the Ark of the Covenant. However, God says forget about that, I have something for you…a place in the salivation of my people. The Messiah will come from your line of descendants. God invited David to be part of the plan and David said yes. One thing I love about Advent is how it draws attention to Mary, the Mother of God and her place in salvation. Not only does God decide to become man, something he could no doubt do without man’s participation, but he invites us to become an active participant in His plan of salvation. And the human who makes that participation possible is the Blessed Mother. As Eve said no, Mary said yes. As Eve believed that the fruit of the forbidden tree would make us as gods, so Mary in humility, the humility of knowing that she was Mary and not God, said “yes” to God’s mysterious plan. Note how God approaches this. Mary is invited by the angel. There is no power here, there is no coercion. God simply says yes and Mary in her humility says yes. What a paradox this is. Look at the love and veneration we have for the Blessed Mother. Look at how many churches are named for her, look at how many people around the world pray the rosary on a daily basis. For all Catholics, there are two prayers we all know…the Our Father and the Hail Mary, Hail Mary, the words the angel uses here today. Hail Mary, full of grace. Full of God’s love, so completely full of God’s love that sin had no room to breathe let alone act in the soul of this young woman from Nazareth. This very humble woman who said yes, and praised the fact that she got to be a servant of the Lord, and look how she is held in our love these 2,000 years later. What is important to us here is simply this. Mary is our participation in our salvation, because she said yes and became the Mary God planned for her to be. She not only physically made the incarnation possible through her cooperation with Go, but she shows us the way to God’s love as well. In so much artwork, especially the icons of the early Church, Mary is depicted holding the Savior Jesus and leading us to him with her hand and expression. She’s our role model in showing us how to respond. God wants us to live forever with him. That’s his will, plain and simple. In Advent, we can take the time to find the ways that each of us needs to say “yes” to that call. Each of us can do that because Mary did and Christ came to be present with us in the Eucharist. We say “yes” when we come to Mass, we say “yes” when we pray, we say “yes” when we explore and deepen our faith through scripture and the teaching of Christ through his Church, we say yes when we confess our sins in the sacrament of Reconciliation, and we say “yes” when we live a life true to his teachings. This is the week to see how we can say “yes" once again.