Gospel Reflection Dec 20 – Deacon Frank
Sunday, December 20
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Luke 1: 26-28
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
As we celebrate this Fourth Sunday of Advent, in this Sunday’s Gospel we have the arrival of the angel Gabriel, who invites Mary to rejoice that she has been chosen to be the mother of Jesus – The Mother of God. Classical artists tend to depict Mary as a docile young woman, often kneeling in prayer as she accepts the awesome invitation.
Mary, though, is also eminently practical and asks the angel to explain how this will be possible since she has no husband. Mary is testing the wisdom of the message she has received. She is being invited to risk her reputation and even her life. The law of Moses would have classified her as someone deserving death by stoning since she would have been regarded as an adulteress. She would also have known that her parents would have been disgraced in their community because of their daughter’s shame. The angel, in reply, is able to offer compelling evidence that the invitation to Mary is genuine. Against all odds, Mary’s kinswoman Elizabeth, well beyond the age of childbearing, is now expecting a baby herself as a sign of God’s blessing.
In the Gospel, we will see two sides of Mary’s character. She is a meek and humble servant of the Lord, but she is also a strong and courageous young woman, able to ask sensible questions, even of an angel, the messenger of God.
We, of course, know that the story of Jesus unfolded to reveal all sorts of joy and sorrow, contradictions, and challenges, leading to his death on the cross of a criminal and, ultimately, his resurrection in glory. But, like the uncertainty which has been the hallmark of this year, let us simply sit with the tensions and the challenges of what Mary was asked to do and be assured that it all worked out well for her, and for us, in the end.
-Deacon Frank Iannarino