The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
December 24, 2023 – Fourth Sunday of Advent-Luke 1:26-38
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Earlier this month on the feast of the Immaculate Conception we recalled the visit of an angel to Mary informing her of the role God would like her to play in “the greatest story ever told.” Mary was taken back by this request from God. At first, she was confused and disturbed. What she was being told did not make sense to her. In a sense, she felt it was beyond her. Luke states in today’s gospel that she was disturbed. Who wouldn’t be?
But we know that eventually she agreed. “May it be done to me according to your word.” And she said this not really knowing all that was ahead. She was accepting a role without knowing the full script. In other words, she trusted that whatever happened later, she would be able to deal with it. Implied, of course, is her trust in God’s help when needed. And I’m sure many such situations came her way in the time ahead.
We all live lives where we are faced with challenges. We open ourselves to all that God plans for us. And like Mary, we sometimes find ourselves in moments when we need extra commitment and strength to deal with what’s before us. At first, we might imagine that we can’t accomplish what is asked of us. But then we move ahead, trusting in God’s help and our own effort. This is called at times “living faith.”
Our thoughts about Mary sometimes portray her as a beautiful woman, walking confidently through life, feeling God’s loving presence, a peaceful smile on her face. Especially based on the scholarship and writing of women theologians and experts in scripture studies, a different image of Mary emerges from their work.
What emerges from their insights is a more real woman, struggling with the challenges of her time. She was placed by God in a role more important than any other person in all of human history. Her willingness to do what God asked was monumental, unprecedented and has affected all of human history here on Earth. This despite the fact that women back then were dismissed as second-class, weak and dependent, needing the protection of men and living under their will and authority. It would not be erroneous to think of her as a true revolutionary. A model for all women and it must be added, all men as well.
Tomorrow we celebrate the Nativity. Of course, we focus on the Christ child, resting on a bed of straw. We recall Joseph in his role as protector and provider. But pay special attention to Mary and think about her life, not so different from our own.
David M. Thomas, PhD