Fourth Sunday of Advent
- Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- Today in Catholic History
- Quote of the Day
- Today’s Gospel Reading
- Gospel Reflection
- Reflection Prayer
- Catholic Apologetics
- Franciscan Formation Reflection
- Reflection on part of the SFO Rule
I am still on the road to recovery, and feeling better each day. Thanks for all the prayers, and please continue. I, in return, am also praying for each of your intentions.
† 821 – Death of Theodulf, Bishop of Orléans
† 1352 – Etienne Aubert elected as Pope Innocentius VI † 1442 – Death of Pierre Cauchon, French Catholic bishop (b. 1371)
† 1837 – Birth of Adolf Daens, Belgian priest/Dutch party founder (CVP)
† 1947 – Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Optissima Pax
† Feasts/Memorials: Gatianus of Tours; O Adonai; Our Lady of Expectation; Greek Orthodox Church – Feast of Sebastian the Martyr
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
“If there’s one sign or mark of living love it is selflessness.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One
Today’s reflection is about the Archangel “Gabriel” visiting Mary to announce her conception and the Incarnation of the “Word” to be made flesh: Jesus.
(NAB Luke 1:26-38) 26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” 35 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. 36 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; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38 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.
Today, we read the story of the Archangel “Gabriel’s” announcement to a young teenager, Mary, about the birth of her only son, Jesus. This story, as presented today, is found only in Luke’s Gospel. Mark (This liturgical years Gospel writer) does not even cover the infancy narratives as well.
On this last Sunday of Advent, the liturgy shifts from a two-week focus on John the Baptist to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Both John and Mary serve as important figures for our reflection during this season of Advent. They each played active, involved, and instrumental roles in preparing the way for Jesus Christ. Last week we reflected on John the Baptist’s announcement that the “Savior” was among us, although not yet recognized. This week we reflect upon Mary’s example of faith, love, and obedience to God the Father. These traits permitted her to receive the angel’s message that God’s Son would be born to her, as a human person, and as one of us.
I love the infancy narratives found in Luke’s Gospel. I have read it to my children many times throughout their CHRISTinMASS Seasons. Reading Luke’s narrative while sitting around the home nativity scene, with its simple crib, can be a helpful way of presenting our Catholic faith to family and friends. The symbolism of the crib brings to my mind the “mystery” and “action” of God’s love being made visible and revealed – – manifested – – in the simple poverty of an animal’s grotto in Bethlehem city.
Along with the mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation, Saint Francis loved this same infancy narrative so much that he created the first live nativity scene in the town of Grecio, Italy in the year 1223. His “Nativity scene” (though not live) has come to be a major focus to our family’s CHRISTinMASS decorations, both outside and inside the home. What better way is there to evangelize, and to “Keep Christ in CHRISTinMASS?!”
Pope Benedict XVI says this about the CHRISTinMASS Nativity Scene:
“It still retains its value for evangelization today. Indeed the crib can help us understand the secret of the true CHRISTinMASS because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who ‘though He was rich he made Himself poor’ for us (2 Corinthians 8:9). His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the Shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: ‘Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Luke 2:12). This is still the sign for us too, men and woman of the third millennium. There is no other Christmas.”
Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to accept, support, and carry in her womb, give birth to, and raise to adulthood. We learn for instance, five things:
(1) Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who was “betrothed” to a man named Joseph.
(2) We know Joseph was of the “house of David.”
(3) Gabriel greets Mary in the most glowing and complementary terms possible, to the point of acknowledging the special favor she had with God (This is known, I might add, from the perfect past-participle part of speech Gabriel used. This form was what caused Mary to be “greatly troubled” – – because that form states something special happened to her way in the past, and is now still present within her.)
(4) The son Mary will give birth to is described in “messianic” terms, learned from her famous ancestor, King David.
(5) Her son [Jesus] will be called both the “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”
Would it not be the perfect gift to have a “messenger” of God (the angel) telling you that God is pleased with you??! Mary’s initial reaction to this angel we know of as “Gabriel” (His name means “the strength of God”), was naturally one of surprise, and also with some obvious initial fear. Being “perfect” in nature, an angel has to be one of such beauty as to place any mere human in a state of total and absolute awe. Yes, I know angels are a “spirit” and have no real bodily form; but the form Gabriel took in order to be seen by Mary is what I am talking about.
I truly love Mary’s human, yet divine reaction to Gabriel’s acclamation. She places her whole self: body, heart, and soul into the hands of God. She trusts God, and now His messenger, accepting God’s grace, gift, and responsibility – – immediately! I believe that she is believing the message ordaining her to the Motherhood of God Himself, to become manifest in the human form of her baby boy, Jesus. In doing so, Mary became not only the “Mother” of God, but also the Mother to ALL mankind. Now that is “awesome” indeed!!
The message to Mary of the birth of Jesus corresponds to the message given by the (same) Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah about the birth of John (the Baptist). In both events, the Archangel Gabriel appears to the “future parents,” who are at first unsettled by the vision:
“Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.” (Luke 1:12)
“But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29)
Both Zechariah and Mary are told by Gabriel NOT TO FEAR!
“But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’” (Luke 1:13)
“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.’” (Luke 1: 30-31)
And, after his announcement he declares:
“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Luke 1:14-17)
“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.” (Luke 1:14-17)
Both Zechariah and Mary initially objected to Gabriel’s announcement:
“Then Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’” (Luke 1:18)
“But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’” (Luke 1:34)
Finally, a sign is given to each as a confirmation of his announcement of God’s decision or purpose and plan:
“But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:20)
“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.” (Luke 1:20)
Mary questions Gabriel of “how this is possible”, for she never had any sexual relations. Her retort was a spontaneous and truthfully humble response. Luke uses Mary’s response to point to the declaration about the Holy Spirit’s part in the conception of Jesus. The virginal conception of Jesus took place solely through the Holy Spirit: the “power” of God. Therefore, in this divine act, there is proof of Jesus having an especially unique relationship to “Yahweh”: He IS the “Son of God!”
Gabriel tells Mary that if a woman well past childbearing age could become pregnant, then why should there be any doubt about Mary’s pregnancy, – – for nothing will be (nor is) impossible for God!
Mary’s positive and assenting answer to this outwardly impossible message gives to all of us evidence for the true love, trust, and grace she always possessed from, and for, God the Father. Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to, and cooperative with, the will of God the Father. Mary is thus the true model of discipleship for all Catholics. She believed God! We should believe God! She learned to “have no fear”! We should learn to “have no fear”!
Gabriel puts a particular focus and emphasis on the message of the birth of Jesus by His identity as the “Son of David” AND “Son of God”. In verse 32 of today’s reading, Mary is told that her baby will be the “Son of the Most High”. Later, in this first Chapter of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:76), John (Elizabeth’s child) is described as the “prophet of the Most High.” ”Most High” is a title for God which was used often throughout Luke’s two “New Testament” books (Luke and Acts). You can see each of these references by reading Luke 1:35 & 76; 6:35; 8:28; and Acts 7:48; 16:17.
In my thirty plus years as a paramedic, I was privileged to assist in the delivery of a dozen or so babies in the pre-hospital setting. All the “soon to be mothers” always had some level of fear in regards to delivering outside the warm and aseptic environment of the local hospital. (Thank God they didn’t realized that I actually had more apprehension in these times than them – – but I could bluff well.) Most of these young ladies were well under twenty-five (25) years of age. Once, I even took care of one young GIRL who had just turned thirteen (13) years old (YES, 13!); she was actively delivering a full-term (40 week) baby on the kitchen floor as I arrived at her mother’s home. To make the matters worse, this was her second pregnancy; the first one ended in an abortion. (You do the math!) Now, surprisingly, this young mother was probably only a year or two younger than Mary when she became pregnant with Jesus!
I am sure Mary had some fear – – what woman wouldn’t! I have yet to see a woman in labor without some fear; and we live in a time and place of “modern” medicine and analgesia (pain control). I am sure she had many concerns streaming through her young, teen-age mind. Examples: How would she be treated by Joseph when he found out about her pregnancy? How would her own family treat her? Would she use disposable or cloth diapers? (You know that she used cloth because the Holy Family was “eco-friendly.”) What would the local society think of her being pregnant, and not living with Joseph? Would Joseph have her stoned to death for adultery? (This was his right per Jewish law.) Should she and Joseph get separate twin beds, or a king-size bed?
She was a young girl of about fifteen. Did she actually understand the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood? I would think not. Thank God her baby turned out to be a “saint” of a child! (Hee, hee! – – Just had to laugh on this one.)
There were many unanswered questions and concerns for Mary, Joseph, and possibly for others in her inner circle. Yet Mary said “YES” with little hesitation! She gave herself totally to God – heart, soul, and body! Young Mary was destined to become the new “Ark” for the new “covenant” of God – – coming to fruition with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son. She was to become the new “Eve” bringing a new life for all people, with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her son. Mary was to become not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of all humans on earth – – with, through, and in Jesus Christ, her unique Divine Son.
I have to believe that God is not only a benevolent, merciful God, but also a God of swift judgment. Mary said “YES” and was rewarded with the crown of a “Queen.” Zechariah could not believe what was told to him and was immediately struck down with an infirmity. Is this an indication of what is in store for all of us when it is time for our “final” judgment? Do you say “Yes” without any hesitation, or do you “Hmm and Haw” over God’s plans for you? Those living a true Catholic life filled within the virtues God so dearly wants us to live may very well find an immediate reward with Him in eternal paradise. Others, including the “tepid” (lukewarm) of faith, may be self-doomed to a horrible existence in everlasting and perpetual hell. (I am saying “yes” too, and am looking forward to a crown for me as well – – have you?)
In reflecting on this Gospel reading, I realized this is the story of the “First Joyful Mystery” of the Rosary. It is called the “Annunciation”, wherein Luke introduces the “person” of Mary through her dialogue with the angel Gabriel. In Luke, the Annunciation begins with the account of “John the Baptist’s” conception and birth. Luke puts forth the phrase, “In the sixth month,” as the initial contact Gabriel makes in proclaiming Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Luke says these specific words when Gabriel appeared to a young virgin, living in the city of Nazareth, Mary, for a specific purpose – – to offer Mary an insight about her cousins husbands strange infirmity of not being able to speak since his time of priestly service six months ago; and to alert her to something marvelous: her cousin, Elizabeth, is also pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit – – and is already in her “sixth month”.
This information inspired Mary to go help her cousin in the last three months of her “elderly” pregnancy. (This, by the way, is the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.)
Now, one of the challenges of our Catholic faith is to recognize the mysteries of God’s plan for each of us and to inspire us to remain open to God’s “will” and God’s actions in our personal world experience. Filled with God’s grace, Mary models for us the kind of faith needed (and desired by our Lord for us) to cooperate in God’s personal plan of salvation for each of us. Like Mary, we are given the awesome opportunity to cooperate in God’s saving plan. On this final Sunday of Advent, our Gospel invites us to consider how our preparations for CHRISTinMASS are making us more aware of God’s grace working in our lives today.
Have you ever been chosen for a high responsibility? To be chosen by God for a particular task has to be (and is) an awesome notion. This is exactly why we honor Mary; she was chosen by God. She was chosen by God – – to be the Mother of Jesus, and ultimately, of all of us! Yet, think about this – – realize that each of us is chosen by God in very specific and important ways as well. We all have been given many gifts, graces, and talents from God the Father. AND, importantly, we are expected to share them with the world. As a parent, I have a tremendous responsibility to help my children find and develop these gifts, graces, and talents they have, and to encourage a sharing with others – – to help them serve God to their fullest.
Please identify some of the talents and treasures God has given you. In what ways could, and should, these talents be used in helping others? Reflect on Mary’s simple and humble reply to God’s call for her. Will you respond to God with a resounding “Yes” as this young teenage girl, Mary, did – – without question or pause?!
To summarize: We have all probably been familiar with the story of the Annunciation for some time. It is fitting that we recall how God the Father announced the birth of Jesus as we make our final preparations for our celebration of the coming birth of Jesus Christ. The Archangel Gabriel visited Mary, a virgin “betrothed” to a man named Joseph. Mary greeted the angel’s news with wonder and awe. She asked how it could be possible that she could give birth to a child. In his reply, the angel Gabriel announced the seemingly impossible reality: the child to be born would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and would be God the Father’s own, and only-begotten Son. Gabriel informs Mary of another miracle; her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant despite having been thought to be “barren” due to her old age (some say in her 80’s). Mary’s response to the angel is her personal fiat, (means “Let it be done” – -used also as a formal or official authorization of something). Her response is the best example of complete faith, trust, love, and obedience to God the Father.
For me, the story of the “Annunciation” should bring to one’s mind God the Father’s amazing and supernatural action in salvation history. God the Father chose a young human person, Mary, to give birth to His Son so that ALL humanity would know God’s kindness, mercy, and salvation. Thus, Jesus was born as one of us, fully human AND yet, also fully divine. This is the “mystery” we prepare to celebrate this and every CHRISTinMASS Season, the mystery of His Incarnation, becoming truly human. In the model of our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, pray that all of us will come to recognize God’s saving plan for us and respond with obedience, trust, hope, and love as she did!
What have you been doing to prepare for CHRISTinMASS? How have these preparations helped you to celebrate better the “central mystery” of CHRISTinMASS, the Incarnation? The Gospel today talks about how Mary was prepared for her role in Christ’s birth. What enabled Mary to say “yes” to God? Please pray that God’s “grace” will enable you to be more faithful and obedient to God. This is mt CHRISTinMASS wish for each of you.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever. Amen”
My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church. Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.
Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral. Oral tradition includes written forms. After all, it ALL started with oral tradition. Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Lying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.
All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
“Oral Tradition” Found in Holy Scripture
“You, then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2). RSV
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2) KJV
“‘Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1: 12). RSV
“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” (2 John 1:12).KJV
“Virtues and Poverty”
Why do Catholics today find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?
Why did Catholics in Saint Francis’ time find it difficult to understand poverty as a virtue?
What do you know of Saint Francis’ “romance and marriage” with Lady Poverty?
18. Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.
19. Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon. Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others. Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.