Sunday, 23 December 2012

Advent Sunday 4 (Year C) -- 23 December 2012

Readings: Micah 5:1-4; Psalm 80; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45

The Annunciation to Mary is the fulfillment of many Old Testament joys - the barren woman bears a child, the Lord is in the midst of His people, God acts to save His people, the covenant is renewed. It is the beginning of the new creation, brought about through the action of God enabling His human creature both to will and to do what that new creation requires. The first creation happens by God's word alone: let there be light. The new creation happens by God's power and initiative but now working through His human creature: let what you have said be done to me.

Immediately Mary leaves her own place and travels to Judea to be with Elizabeth and to help her in the final months of her pregnancy. There, greeted by Elizabeth, she speaks the words of her Magnificat. It teaches us other things about grace, this sudden departure of Mary for Judea, in the first place that God's gifts always include a call of some kind. Grace is always about vocation. To receive from God always entails becoming a giver. To be loved by God always means becoming a lover.

A gift of God is never something to be placed on the mantelpiece to be admired, and dusted, every now and then. God's gift can only be the gift of God Himself. God has nothing to give except what God is, and that is love. To be loved by God means not just that one is beloved but also that one becomes a lover. This is the impact of the gift of God: we are made to be lovers. So we begin to show towards others the kindness and generosity we have ourselves experienced from God. There is no extra demand given to us but it happens spontaneously and naturally in the one who has received the gift of God. If it does not happen then we have not really received the gift of God. It is how grace affects those who receive it: they become givers. 'Freely, freely you have received; freely, freely give'. We see it happening first in Mary's spontaneous, immediate journey to Elisabeth.

Later Jesus will say to the apostles that they are no longer simply servants but have become his friends. All the more is this the case with Mary. Grace enables the human creature to stand up and be more than a creature. We are always needy. Grace not only meets that need, healing us and reconciling us with God, it raises us beyond that, to the position of children and friends of God. We become collaborators in God's work, 'entitled', by grace, to stand in His presence and serve Him in freedom and with responsibility.

Faith means the coming to birth of the Word in us. This is never just for us, as some kind of personal possession, but is always for human beings and their salvation, for the world that is so much loved by God that He sent His only Son so that all who believe might live no longer in fear but in freedom and joy. The infant growing in our heart's womb already leaps for joy and awaits the fuller revelation of the glory that has been promised.

You will find here and here other homilies for this Sunday.

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