December 18, 2011 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of the annunciation. The angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary and announces to her that she will give birth to Jesus Christ. Through her, the fulfillment of the Jews’ Messianic hope will come to pass. Mary plays a vital role in salvation history, and here we see the beginning of that. When she gave her assent, the Lord was conceived in her womb. Yes, at the moment that Mary proclaimed, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be it be done to me according to your word,” the Word became Flesh. God became man. And So, Mary’s yes changed the course of human history, and, through her free-willed assent, she became the Mother of God.
Yet, if we contemplate on the whole of today’s Gospel reading, we will notice that it not only tells of Mary’s pivotal “yes,” but much of the story emphasizes the good things that God has done in Mary and, then, the good things He will continue to do through Jesus.
The angel greets Mary with the words, “Hail, full of grace, The Lord is with you.” And when Mary reacts in fear, he encourages her, “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.”
Mary is to be the Mother of God, not because she has earned it, but because God has blessed her. The Lord has done good things in her – as we heard her proclaim last week in her Magnificat, and those good things will continue as she conceives Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary gives her free-willed yes to God, but it is God who does the rest. “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.”
We see this same emphasis on God’s great goodness in the first reading as well. David, recognizing that God had protected him from his enemies, wanted to do something to honor Yahweh. He feels as though it is his duty to build a temple for the Lord, and yet the Lord reminds him: “It was I who took you from the pasture and from the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.”
We hear, too, the Lord’s promise, “I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in that place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old.”
The Jewish people are a hopeful people. They are awaiting their savior, and the Lord promises, through Him, they will know the fulfillment of that hope. But the one thing that is continually emphasized throughout this reading from Samuel is that all good things come from God – He has cared for David and for the whole of His people Israel, and He will continue that care, culminating in the fulfillment of their messianic hope.
This is a message that applies to us today just as much as it did to David so long ago. God is the giver of all good gifts. All good things come by way of gift from the Lord. All good things that happen are blessings from above. So, as we contemplate both David’s and Mary’s roles in salvation history and we await the Christmas celebration, let us keep our sights set on the Lord, recognizing that He is the doer of all that is good. He promised the Jews a savior, and He sent His Son to be the Savior they awaited. And today, as we live as Christ disciples, knowing the One who is the fulfillment of all God promises, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Lord continues to do good things through us. He continues to bless us with many good gifts and He continues to build the Church, helping many people come to know Him.
Much like David and Mary, we all play a role in Salvation History. We are God’s instruments, His disciples through whom many will come to know Him. He has given us so many good gifts, and it is our responsibility, as stewards, to make a free-will decision, much like Mary did, to allow Him to work through us, to use the gifts He has given us to show forth His glory, living lives that bear witness to His goodness. But, let us always remember, as the Lord reiterated to David, that it is God who works through us.
And then, as today’s second reading reminds us, “to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory forever and ever.”