IV SUNDAY ADVENT: MARY OUR MODEL
Today, Fourth Sunday of Advent, the spotlight falls on a young woman. She is the second of the central figures of this season. Biblical experts tell us that Mary could have been no more than a teenager when she received the Angel’s message. How could she know what God had planned? How could she possibly understand? She asks a very sensible question: “How can this happen, since I am a virgin?” She considers the Angel’s answer. She ponders. And then: “If that is what God wants, I am ready. Let it happen as you have said”.
No wonder Mary is the model of trusting faith for all of us! Faith that goes beyond understanding.
What Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant Christians call “The Annunciation” is a title for today’s Gospel narrative. The message from the angel is how the early Church believers imagined the intimate and privileged relationship between God and the lowly young woman, Mary of Nazareth.
The readings at Mass today make connections between the story of King David and the Prophet Nathan on the one hand, and the Annunciation of God’s Plan to Mary by the Angel Gabriel on the other. This is because of the Christian belief that Jesus, Son of Mary, was a descendant of King David, one of those promised in the final lines of today’s first reading. Early Christians would trace Jesus’ theological ancestry back to the Royal House of David through Mary’s husband, Joseph, in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 3:23-38) and also in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 1:1-17).
But, from the perspective of Mary, who would carry the child Jesus in her womb for nine months, she was the New Testament’s “Ark of the (New) Covenant” and it was upon her that God’s Real Presence descended as the Angel Gabriel spoke to her. Thus, just as the ancient Temple in Jerusalem was the location of God’s Presence for the Chosen People, so now Mary herself became for a short time the location of God’s Presence in the Mystery of the Incarnation for the whole world.
Maybe we can spend each day this week, leading up to the Birth of Jesus, quietly pondering with Mary what it means that God is coming into the world, into my world, as a tiny baby. The daily readings are especially powerful this week, and will help us to prepare.
Fr. Charles Sérignat OFM Cap.