4th Sunday of Advent

First reading: 2 Sm. 7:1–5,8b–12,14a,16

When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.” But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?’

“It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”

Second reading: Rom. 16:25–27

Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel: Lk. 1:26–38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “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, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

In other words

by Fr. Raymun J. Festin, SVD (Rome, Italy)

Today’s Gospel recounts the story of the Annunciation. The story revolves around the interesting discourse between Mary and the Angel Gabriel.

It is remarkable how the Evangelist Luke skillfully casts the greatest conversation ever conducted in history in the simplest and shortest terms.
(a) The angel Gabriel greets Mary and reveals to her—in the words of St. Paul in the Second Reading—“the mystery kept secret for long ages,” the Incarnation.
(b) The puzzled Mary then asks a perceptive question.
(c) The angel explains the mystery of God’s divine plan.
(d) After weighing her options, Mary gives her consent to God’s proposal, her Fiat.

That is how St. Luke crafts the brief, a two-movement verbal exchange between heaven and earth: very simple, concise, direct to the point, and punctuated by Gabriel’s return to the heavenly abode. No frills. No press release. No applause. 

Brevity and simplicity are God’s way of communicating; the human way is excess of words.

The dialogue between Mary and Gabriel is the most sublime and momentous event of all times. For the prospect of God’s becoming human—as well as the redemption of fallen humanity—depended on the outcome of that summit that took place in Nazareth more than 2,000 years ago. That we celebrate Christmas is because Mary said Yes to God.

What catches our attention in the Gospel is that Mary shows herself unfazed and unintimidated by the presence of the heavenly messenger.

Remember how Zechariah reacted when Gabriel appeared to him inside the Temple’s sanctuary? Zechariah quaked in fear; he panicked. The women who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday were also frightened to the bone upon seeing the Angels, and, according to St. Mark’s account, they hastily fled in terror.

Not Mary of Nazareth.

She remains calm, composed, and cool in her encounter with God’s courier. The unflappable bearing of the world’s most favored human must have impressed Gabriel.

And she was only about 15 years old at that time. Her character must be of tensile strength.

Two attributes of Mary shine and stand out during the Annunciation.

The first is her gift of discernment. She did not rush to giving her accent to the divine proposition. She must have thought about it very attentively and carefully.

She must have spent considerable time in prayerful solitude—thinking, praying, and pondering. Her decision is the product of deep self-reflection and sound judgment.

And this shows how sharp and intelligent Mary is.

The second is her generosity of spirit. Mary certainly had her own plans and projects for the future. She must have had her personal dreams to realize and her private aspirations to fulfill.

But all these she laid aside in saying her Yes to God.

And she did not set conditions on her decision. She just let go of everything and trusted God.

What courage! What generosity of spirit!

In this season of Christmas, we thank the Blessed Mother for giving her Fiat to God, because of which Jesus came to us. We also thank her for her generosity and self-sacrifice.

Indeed, she is the most blessed of all—overflowing with God’s grace.

Finally, we pray that we, too, may become like Mary—prayerfully self-reflective and discerning, courageous and generous.

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