Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mary: model for Advent


4th Sunday of Advent 2011:

Today as we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent the Church gives us the familiar story of the Annunciation to help us transition from Advent to Christmas. This is one of our most beloved stories, truly the beginning of the Good News of Salvation. It is a beautiful story any time of year, but I think it is a great story to ponder this week as we try to spend one last week in Advent preparing for the celebration of the birth of our Savior.

I think we can learn three things from Mary that can help us make the most out of Advent. First, she was prepared for the angel. Listen carefully to the story again: Hail, Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Mary was greatly trouble, it says, at what was said. Notice here that Mary is not greatly troubled by the appearance of the Angel. I think I would be less troubled by what the angel said, and more troubled by the fact that an angel was talking to me. Not Mary, she acts as though everything were normal. This is what it means to be prepared for the coming of the Lord. During this season of Advent our prayers and readings have been telling us to be prepared for the coming of our Savior, not only at Christmas, but especially when he comes again at the end of time. We do this by prayer and good works, we do this by repentance and by preparing the way for the Lord in our hearts and in our world. If we are constantly looking for Christ, if we are constantly preparing ourselves for his coming, then even an angel of God could come to us and we would not be surprised. But, that is the kind of preparation we are supposed to carry out.

How did Mary carry out this preparation? Hail, Mary, full of Grace. This title, full of Grace, is quite interesting. IF you look at the Greek you notice it is a perfect passive participle: already having been filled with grace, would be another way to translate this passage. The Church has looked to this passage as a way of supporting the teaching of Mary's Immaculate Conception, which means that from the first moments of her existence, Mary was free from sin and full of grace. I believe that this was the reason Mary was not only frightened by the presence of God in the angel, but almost expecting it. Since she was full of grace she was always ready to see the Lord. The same should be true for all of us. Now, Mary received a singular gift of grace that came to her at the first moment of her existence. We receive those gifts over time. This week many of you will have the chance to make a good confession before Christmas, every confession fills us with grace. We will have a chance to receive Holy Communion in a few moments, this will fill us with grace. When we pray to God and serve him in others, these are opportunities to be filled with grace. Like Mary, we need to be prepared for the presence of God in our lives, and this preparation takes place by availing ourselves of the opportunities for God's grace.

So what happened to Mary? She was prepared, full of Grace, and God asked her to bring Christ into the world. God never took away Mary's freedom, instead she gave a free yes to the will of God: let it be done to me according to your word. Again she is a great model for us. If we are prepared to meet the Lord, if his presence is in us through the many opportunities for grace all around us, he will ask us to bring Christ into the world. God had a special mission for Mary, and truly blessed is she among all men and women. But, God has a special mission for each one of us as well. If we follow Mary's example we too can bring Christ into the world. This is certainly not easy, which is why it is so important to ask Mary for her prayers and guidance. Let us echo the words of the angel as we say together: Hail Mary…

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