Advent with Nazareth Retreat Center is a series of short reflections on timely issues facing our world today in relation to the Gospel message for each Sunday of Advent. It is the Sisters’ hope and prayer that these reflections will be a source of wisdom, insight, inspiration, and closeness to God during a time in our world’s history where observing this sacred time of year, as usual, is not possible.

Thank you for listening to these reflections. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth pray that you have a blessed, safe, and healthy Advent!

Transcript

REFLECTION FOR FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2020

The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit

Behold the handmaid of the Lord
Be it done unto me according to your word

And the Word was made flesh
And dwelt among us

This is a summary of today’s gospel. A prayer many of us learned in school. A prayer that might come to mind when we hear bells ring at noon since that was when we said it.

A prayer that for me is both the beginning and the end of the Christmas story.

But it is also a prayer that is reflected in the lives of each one of us.

The angel of the Lord declared unto—say your own name

What is it that the angel called me/us to? What was the life call? The challenge? The little things we were asked to do?

And she conceived of the Holy Spirit

Was it from the Spirit? Did the Spirit show us how to develop the call?

Behold the handmaid of the Lord

Be it done unto me according to your word

What was the response? Was there a struggle or was it an immediate YES?

And the Word was made flesh

And dwelt among us

Was God in the response? Did other people benefit? Do we know?

Is that important?

This prayer is not just the story of the interaction of Mary and the angel but rather a guide for us to look at our own life.

The ending to today’s gospel says the angel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant and was in her sixth month. Mary heard this word and responded by going to see how she could be of help to Elizabeth but also so she could share her story with someone who had heard the word of God in a different way.

I wonder how did these two come to believe they had a central role to play in the birth of the sacred?

How did they say “yes” to a great unknown?

A “yes” that would radically change the lives they thought they had in front of them and of the world.

I believe these women are the central figures of the Advent season. They model for me, for us, what a commitment to God looks like. A commitment to the unknown future that lies ahead for each of us.

Other young women in our own time have heard the word of God in different ways and have responded as they were called. They may not have even thought of it as the word of God, but they knew it was something they had to do.

Malala in Pakistan who was shot for going to school herself and urging other girls to get an education.

Greta Thumberg in Sweden who became so aware of the climate crises that by the age of 12 she began taking Fridays off from school to strike for climate change. She is now known internationally having spoken at the UN twice.

And, a young woman most have never heard of, Madison Edwards from Ambergis Caye in Belize who became aware of seismic testing for the possibility of offshore drilling off the coast of Belize. No was doing anything so she started a social media campaign to get others to pressure the country to not allow this to go on. In 2017 Belize became the first country to ban offshore testing and drilling for oil in their waters.

And, of course, all the young people who led demonstrations against racial violence the past several years and especially this summer.

Elizabeth, not so young, heard the word of God and was able to respond to Mary, “How is it that the Mother of my God should come to visit me?”

Today’s Gospel and the Gospels of Monday and Tuesday give us the story of two who heard the word of God and said Yes without knowing what it might mean. They challenge us to listen to the world around us, to see and hear what the word of God might be calling us to do. To tap into the courage the Spirit wants to conceive in us. And to pray that we may be willing to repond as we can, right here, right now in our life.

The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary

And she conceived of the Holy Spirit

Behold the handmaid of the Lord

Be it done unto me according to your word

And the word was made flesh

And dwelt among us.