Fourth Sunday of Advent
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” These were Elizabeth’s words to Mary. Two days before Christmas, are there better words to reflect upon? Mary’s role in the history of salvation can never be overestimated. Even though Joseph is not part of today’s gospel reading, I would like to bring him into the picture. In my three points, I would like to reflect on both of them.
a) Being Radical Availability to God. Mary’s, “Behold, may be done to me according to your word,” was the most radical cooperation with God that any human person had ever made. In those words, Mary made herself radically available to God. She put her engagement to Joseph, her family, her parents, her reputation, her personal life at risk by making herself totally and radically available for God In her “Yes”, Mary was not merely giving a personal consent to God. She was reversing the universal “No” that the first Eve made through her disobedience. Just like Eve’s disobedience had universal implications for death and destruction, Mary’s “Yes” would have universal implications for healing and salvation.When Christ came to us as a baby, there was no room for him. Mary, however, made room for him in her womb, for our sake and for the sake of the salvation of the world. Mary’s radical availability made redemption possible.
On this last Sunday of Advent and just two days before Christmas, the best gift we can give to Jesus and to one another is that we remain radically available to God like Mary was.
b) Radical Availability Leads to Unfathomed Miracles. I am often awestruck at Mary’s radical availability to God and ho it played out in human and salvation history. When she said, “May it be done according to you word,” she had no idea of how her “Yes” would play out in salvation and world history. She did not foresee the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Only in retrospect do we know that the events that led to our salvation began with Mary’s initial “Yes” to God. In this context, Elizabeth’s words, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled,” are very significant.
When we, like Mary, make ourselves radically available to God, we may not be able to fathom the implications of our openness to God. We will never know how our “Yes” might affect the people around us – our families, our fellow-workers, our parish, or the world. We do know one thing – that our radical availability to God becomes a way for God to continue acting in the world for its salvation. Like Mary, blessed are we if we believe what was spoken to us by the Lord will be fulfilled.
c) Joseph - Contemplative Mystic. As we reflect on Mary, I think we should take a moment to reflect on Joseph. A few days back, Pope Francis tweeted this about Joseph. He said, “Be like Saint Joseph: a man of dreams, not a dreamer; a man of silence, because he respects God’s plan.” A man of dreams and a man of silence – it describes a contemplative man, a mystic. For Joseph, not to divorce Mary or subject her to ridicule, shame, or possibiliy even corporal punishment, was bizarre by the moral standards of the time. Rather, Joseph took Mary in and became Jesus’ foster father. Joseph’s actions show us the depth of his contemplative intimacy with God. We do not hear much from him or about him in the gospels. His silence is not a sign of weakness, but rather, a sign of his mystical contemplation of God.
Advent is a time of contemplation, a time for quiet mysticism. In the midst of all the business of the time, Joseph teaches us not to forget to connect with God on the deepest level. How deeply did we connect with God this Advent? It’s still not to late. Perhaps we can set aside some time for prayer and contemplation, for silence and dreams, for quiet and peace.
Very soon the bread and wine will become the flesh and blood of Jesus. This is the same flesh and blood that she made room for. This the same flesh and blood for which Mary made herself unconditionally available. This is the same flesh and blood before whom Joseph stood in quiet contemplation. As we receive the bread and, let us make room for Jesus like Mary did. Let us be in quiet contemplation.
- Fr. Satish Joseph