SFX Bulletin, 21 December 2014 We celebrate today the fourth and last Sunday of Advent. With the preparation season of Advent coming to a close and the vigil celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord just three days away, we are invited today to consider if our spiritual preparation are in tandem with the change in liturgical seasons. At Christmas, we celebrate not only Jesus’ birth as Saviour but the riches of grace won for us and the joyful hope he has given us to look ahead to his Second Coming – this time as Judge over the world where “each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare” (CCC1038).
The Church reminds us unceasingly that we are living in a time of God’s immense grace to be made ready for Judgement and for heaven. This reminder comes again as we light the fourth candle of the Advent wreath today. Often called the Angel’s Candle or the Candle of Love, this candle is so named because God’s love for man and his plan of grace was first proclaimed or heralded by an angel to Mary. This took place at the Annunciation – an event we meditate on in our daily Angelus and the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary and is presented today to us for our gospel reflection.
The Annunciation is the proclamation of God’s plan of salvation to man. Mary was to conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit and call her baby “Jesus” (cf. Lk.1:31). “Jesus” in Hebrew means “God saves” and the Annunciation inaugurates what St. Paul calls, “the fullness of time” - the time of the fulfillment of God’s promises and preparations of his saving plan (cf. Gal.4:4; CCC484).
This plan included preserving Mary from the stain of original sin from the first instant of her conception and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life (CCC508). This is not to say that Mary was “programmed” by God to speak and think in a sin-free way as one would programme a computer to perform specific functions. Rather, Mary had her free will but was “enriched by God with gifts appropriate to the role of being the Mother of the Saviour” (cf. Lumen Gentium 56). When the Archangel Gabriel said Mary had “won God’s favour” (Lk.1:30), he revealed that Mary had pleased God with her obedience and co-operation. Mary had “co-operated through free faith and obedience in human salvation” (LG 56). Her fiat, “…let what you have said be done to me” (Lk.1:38) is why the Church venerates her. It is the “purest realization of faith”, the “most perfect embodiment of the obedience of faith” (cf. CCC148-149). Mary offered herself to God to be used as he deemed necessary to further his plan of salvation. She is both an example and a model for how we are also to respond in faith to God’s plans for us.
We, too, have been graced “without measure”. The Catechism says that just as Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and his whole life and mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit, “This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people” (CCC1287). We have been graced with the fullness of the Spirit to experience and “broadcast” God’s invitation to share in his divine life. St. Paul says that it is faith in God’s marvelous work of Jesus’ Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection and Ascension to the right hand of the Father - “the Good News” - that gives us strength to live as Christ lived (cf. Rom. 16:25). Not knowing God’s saving plan is a deprivation, “Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us… "ignorance of God" is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations” (CCC2087).
God’s plans for us can remain simply as religious information if our hearts and minds are not open to being transformed. Let us trust in God’s plan to form us into Christ’s likeness. Like Mary, may we respond in faith and submit to God, “Let what you have said be done to me” (Lk.1:38).