POPE FRANCIS’ REFLECTION ON THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B
24 December 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!
In this Gospel passage, we notice a contrast between the promises of the angel and Mary’s response. This contrast is manifested in the dimension and content of the expressions of the two protagonists. The angel says to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever” (vv. 30-33). It is a long revelation which opens unprecedented possibilities. The Child that will be born to this humble girl from Nazareth will be called Son of the Most High. It is not possible to conceive of a higher dignity than this. And after Mary’s question in which she asks for an explanation, the angel’s revelation becomes even more detailed and surprising.
On the other hand, Mary’s reply is a short sentence that does not speak of glory. It does not speak of privilege but only of willingness and service: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). The content is also different. Mary does not exalt herself before the prospect of becoming the mother of the Messiah, but rather remains modest and expresses her acceptance of the Lord’s plan. Mary does not boast. She is humble and modest. She always remains the same.
This contrast is meaningful. It makes us understand that Mary is truly humble and does not try to be noticed. She recognizes that she is small before God and she is happy to be so. At the same time, she is aware that the fulfilment of God’s plan depends on her response, and that therefore she is called to accept it with her whole being.
In this circumstance, Mary’s behaviour corresponds perfectly to that of the Son of God when he comes into the world. He wants to become the Servant of the Lord, to put himself at the service of humanity to fulfil the Father’s plan. Mary says: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord”; and the Son of God upon entering the world says: “Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God” (Heb 10:7). Mary’s attitude fully mirrors this statement by the Son of God who also becomes the son of Mary. Thus Our Lady shows that she is in perfect accord with God’s plan. Furthermore she reveals herself as a disciple of his Son, and in the Magnificat, she will be able to proclaim that God has “exalted those of low degree” (Lk 1:52) because with her humble and generous response, she has obtained great joy and also great glory.
As we admire our Mother for this response to God’s call to mission, we ask her to help each of us to welcome God’s plan into our lives with sincere humility and brave generosity.
21 December 2014
Christ knocks at our hearts to grant us peace, peace of the soul. Let us open our doors to Christ!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today, the Fourth and last Sunday of Advent, the Liturgy wants to prepare us for Christmas, now at the door, by inviting us to meditate on the Angel’s Annunciation to Mary. The Archangel Gabriel reveals to the Virgin the Lord’s will that she become the mother of his Only-Begotten Son: “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:31-32). Let us fix our gaze on this simple girl from Nazareth, at the moment she offers herself to the divine message with her “yes”; let us grasp two essential aspects of her attitude, which is for us the model of how to prepare for Christmas.
First of all her faith, her attitude of faith, which consists in listening to the Word of God in order to abandon herself to this Word with full willingness of mind and heart. Responding to the Angel, Mary said: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). In her “behold” filled with faith, Mary does not know by what road she must venture, what pains she must suffer, what risks she must face. But she is aware that it is the Lord asking and she entrusts herself totally to Him; she abandons herself to his love. This is the faith of Mary!
Another aspect is the capacity of the Mother of Christ to recognize God’s time. Mary is the one who made possible the Incarnation of the Son of God, “the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages” (Rom 16:25). She made possible the Incarnation of the Word thanks to her humble and brave “yes”. Mary teaches us to seize the right moment when Jesus comes into our life and asks for a ready and generous answer. And Jesus is coming. Indeed, the mystery of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem took place historically more than 2,000 years ago but occurs as a spiritual event in the “today” of the Liturgy. The Word, who found a home in the virgin womb of Mary, comes in the celebration of Christmas to knock once again at the heart of every Christian. He comes and knocks. Each of us is called to respond, like Mary, with a personal and sincere “yes”, placing oneself fully at the disposal of God and of his mercy, of his love. How many times Jesus comes into our lives, and how many times he sends us an angel, and how many times we don’t notice because we are so taken, immersed in our own thoughts, in our own affairs and even, in these days, in our Christmas preparations, so as not to notice Him who comes and knocks at the door of our hearts, asking for acceptance, asking for a “yes” like Mary’s. A saint used to say: “I am afraid that the Lord will come”. Do you know what the fear was? It was the fear of not noticing and letting Him pass by. When we feel in our hearts: “I would like to be a better man, a better woman…. I regret what I have done…”. That is the Lord knocking. He makes you feel this: the will to be better, the will to be closer to others, to God. If you feel this, stop. That is the Lord! And go to prayer, and maybe to confession, cleanse yourselves… this will be good. But keep well in mind: if you feel this longing to be better, He is knocking: don’t let Him pass by!
In the mystery of Christmas, at Mary’s side there is the silent presence of St Joseph, as he is portrayed in every Nativity scene — as in the one you can admire here in St Peter’s Square. The example of Mary and Joseph is for us all an invitation to accept, with total openness of spirit, Jesus, who for love made Himself our brother. He comes to bring to the world the gift of peace: “on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2:14), as the choirs of Angels proclaimed to the shepherds. The precious gift of Christmas is peace, and Christ is our true peace. And Christ knocks at our hearts to grant us peace, peace of the soul. Let us open our doors to Christ!
Let us entrust ourselves to the intercession of our Mother and of St Joseph in order to experience a a truly Christian Christmas, free of all worldliness, ready to welcome the Saviour, God-among-us.
SEE AS WELL:
4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B 2020 MASS PRAYERS AND READINGS HERE
REFLECTION HOMILY ON THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B HERE.
POPE FRANCIS REFLECTION ON THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B HERE.
POPE BENEDICT XVI’ REFLECTION ON THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B HERE.