POPE FRANCIS’ 2020 REFLECTION ON THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B
20 December 2020
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
On this Fourth and final Sunday of Advent, the Gospel proposes to us once again the account of the Annunciation. “Rejoice” says the angel to Mary, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Lk 1:28, 31). It seems to be an announcement of pure joy, destined to make the Virgin happy. Among the women of that time, which woman did not dream of becoming the mother of the Messiah? But along with joy, those words foretell a great trial to Mary. Why? Because in that moment she was “betrothed” (v. 27); she was unmarried. She was betrothed to Joseph. In such a situation, the Law of Moses stipulated there should be no relations or cohabitation. Therefore, in having a son, Mary would have transgressed the Law, and the punishment for women was terrible: stoning (see Dt 22:20-21). Certainly the divine message would have filled Mary’s heart with light and strength; nevertheless, she found herself faced with a crucial decision: to say “yes” to God, risking everything, even her life, or to decline the invitation and to continue her ordinary life.
What does she do? She responds thus: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). But in the language in which the Gospel is written, it is not simply “let it be”. The expression indicates a strong desire, it indicates the will that something happen. In other words, Mary does not say: “If it has to happen, let it happen…, if it cannot be otherwise…”. It is not resignation. No, she does not express a weak and submissive acceptance, but rather she expresses a strong desire, a vivacious desire. She is not passive, but active. She does not submit to God, she binds herself to God. She is a woman in love prepared to serve her Lord completely and immediately. She could have asked for a little time to think about it, or even for more explanations about what would happen; perhaps she could have set some conditions… Instead, she does not take time, she does not keep God waiting, she does not delay.
How often – let us think of ourselves now – how often is our life is made up of postponements, even the spiritual life! For example, I know it is good for me to pray, but today I do not have time… tomorrow… by saying “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow”, we postpone things: I will do it tomorrow. I know it is important to help someone, yes, I must do it: I will do it tomorrow. Today, on the threshold of Christmas, Mary invites us not to postpone, but to say “yes”. “Must I pray!” “Yes, I will seek and pray”. “Must I help others? Yes”. How shall I do it? And I do it. Without putting it off. Every “yes” costs something, every “yes” has its cost, but it always costs less than what that courageous and prompt “yes” cost her, that “let it be to me according to your word”, which brought us salvation.
What, then is the “yes” we can say? Instead of complaining in these difficult times about what the pandemic prevents us from doing, let us do something for someone who has less: not the umpteenth gift for ourselves and our friends, but for a person in need whom no-one thinks of! And another piece of advice: in order for Jesus to be born in us, let us prepare our hearts, let us go to pray, let us not let ourselves be swept up by consumerism. “Ah, I have to buy presents, I must do this and that”. That frenzy of doing things, more and more. It is Jesus that is important. Consumerism is not found in the manger in Bethlehem: there is reality, poverty, love. Let us prepare our hearts to be like Mary’s: free from evil, welcoming, ready to receive God.
“Let it be to me according to your word”. This is the Virgin’s last word for this last Sunday of Advent, and it is the invitation to take a genuine step towards Christmas. For if the birth of Jesus does not touch our lives – mine, yours, yours, ours, everyone’s – if it does not touch our lives, it slips past us in vain. In the Angelus now, we too will say “let your word be fulfilled in me”: May Our Lady help us to say it with our lives, with our approach to these last days in which to prepare ourselves well for Christmas.