YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
HOMILY THEME: MARY’S FIAT (The “YES” that perfects God’s plans)
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY: R1 – 2Sam 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
RESP PS. – PS 89:2-5,25,27
R2 – Rom 16:25-27
GOSPEL – Lk 1:26-38
On January 10, 2002, a London based Newspaper, _Reuters,_ reported a surprising and anxiety-laden incident that took place in a London Hospital, England.
The hospital’s computer system, which normally is used to send form letters and emails, reminding people of their schedules, checkups and appointment with the doctor, was in the hands of an amateur and newly employed worker who hit the wrong key.
She mistakenly sent identical form letters to over 30 unsuspecting patients informing them that they were pregnant. Among the recipients of the letters were six elderly men. Imagine the hospital telling elderly men that they’re pregnant! Can you imagine the surprise of those six men? _“Your doctor at Such-and-Such hospital is pleased to inform you that you are expecting a baby!”_ This is quite shocking, to say the least!
There were probably varied perplexing reactions from different women who were probably surprised as well who received the letter, “How can it be?” One was reported to have fainted; another teenage girl almost committed suicide, while another asked: “That’s not possible! I think I’m going to be sick!” There was indeed some high anxiety in the homes of some female patients who received this letter.
Beloved in Christ, the readings of today focus more on the events that preceded the birth of the Messiah, namely: the promise to preserve the sovereignty of the Davidic dynasty (2 Samuel 7:16) realized in Jesus Christ and Mary’s key role in the history of our salvation through her “Fiat” (Yes).
In the Gospel reading of today, Mary, just like the panicking London Hospital patients, received her own surprising mail of pregnancy from a heavenly hospital, where impossibilities are made possible. It was indeed an emotionally distressing, life-threatening and anxiety-stricken visitation and experience for Mary. Mary was only a teenage virgin girl engaged and betrothed to be married. She had never been with a man – even the man she was about to marry; yet she recognized the new challenges that would emerge in her betrothal and the crisis into which this pregnancy could throw both families, leading to her shame and execution according to the Jewish customs ( Dt 22:13-21 and Nm 5:11-31);
Inspite of all that, she resigned all her worries and anxiety to the total will of God, who alone can make the impossible, possible (Lk 1:37) with an amazing “YES” that perfects the will of God.
In today’s gospel, the Angel Gabriel surprises Mary with seven announcements and they’re summarized thus;
(i) Even as a virgin betrothed to Joseph, she would become a mother.
(ii) She would become a mother through the Holy Spirit, in Angel Gabriel’s very own words; _“the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the Power of the Most High will overshadow you.”_
(iii) The angel continues, _“Therefore, the Child to be born will be called Holy, the Son of God.”_
(iv) She is to _“name the child Jesus,”_ which means Savior.
(v) God will make Him a King and a descendant in the line of David.
(vi) “He will rule over the House of Jacob forever, and of His Kingdom there will be no end.”
(vii) As a Divine sign, Elizabeth, Mary’s aged barren cousin is six months pregnant, “for,” says Gabriel, _“nothing shall be impossible with God!”_
Mary reacted to these seven surprises with a simple and indeed some surprising gestures, namely: “a wholehearted and totally unconditional “Yes” – (Fiat) _”Let it be done in me according to your words.”_
*COMPARING HOW MARY HANDLED HER PERPLEXITY VERSUS ZECHARIAH’S DOUBTS AND SARAH’S LAUGHTER GESTURES:*
Mary’s Fiat made her outstanding among other cohorts who received similar surprising visitations: _Zechariah and Sarah._
Mary’s question at the annunciation,
_“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”_
only springs from an understandable confusion, that is _”fides quarens intellectum”_ (faith seeking understanding-St Anslem). Mary being fully aware of the significance and consequences of the Angel’s message, already believed that “nothing is impossible to God,” (Luke 1:37) so she listened with a Faith seeking clarification and understanding
Whereas, in Zechariah’s question, _“How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years”_ (1:18); we see doubts- “how will I know? The angel in return to his doubts struck Zechariah mute because Zechariah asked for a sign — tangible proof that the angel was telling the truth!
Moreso, Sarah made God a laughing stock when she received her own visitation to conceive under a seemingly “biologically impossible” situation. She laughed to herself thinking: _”Now that I am past the age of childbearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again?”_ (Gen 18:12).
Mary’s unreserved and uncompromising “YES” (Fiat) in her conversation with the angel Gabriel became fruitful through the following gestures which we should imbibe in our Advent preparations:
(1) MARY LISTENS AND PRAYS
(2) MARY BELIEVES
(3) MARY OBEYS
*(1) MARY LISTENS AND PRAYS*
God, as of the days of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:8), still speaks to us every second and every minute in various ways, but oftentimes, we might form too busy to pay attention and hear God speak to us. Paul VI says of silence, _”Of all human activities, man’s listening to God is the Supreme act of his reasoning and will.”_
Mary’s greatness and trans-generational blessings were perfected by her great virtue of listening inter alia. We live in a noisy neighbourhood that is too busy to listen to the promptings of the conscience (God’s residential abode in us); and more still, too busy to listen to one another, especially, the aged, the sick, those troubled by anxiety and worries-just give them some time.
Furthermore, Mary’s Fiat was never sealed in a market, noisy or distracted environment. Perhaps, it is a product of prayerful disposition and one-on-one encounter with God, because, “Silence is the beginning of prayer”, says Mother Teresa. So, this great virtue of listening took place at prayer.
We hardly hear God when:
(a) We have fear for silence and prayers
(b) We are ignorant of the scriptures
(c) We indulge in immorality
(d) We indulge in inappropriate and amoral movies, literature, music and pictures
(e) We gossip and keep unfriendly relationships.
May we learn from Mary today, how to prayerfully listen to God and our environment.
*(2) MARY BELIEVES*
The unflinching faith of Mary was outstanding in consolidating her key role in the work of Salvation. She had great convictions that the righteous cannot please God with unbelief (Heb 11:6). She was humble in faith that she first believes and only then reasons upon that to which she had already acceded to, “Let it be done to me according to your word” Even her kinswoman, Elizabeth’s conception, “Know that Elizabeth your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be sterile is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God,” (vv. 36-37, was accorded a great “YES” (Fiat) gesture, despite Elizabeth’s slim and impossible state of conceiving at old ago. We hereby adopt like Mary, the admonitions of St Paul in the second reading to totally believe and trust in God’s plans and revealed mysteries in Christ Jesus.
*(3) MARY OBEYS*
The scriptural injunction, _”obedience is better than sacrifice”_ (1Sam 15:22), was perfectly actualized in the life of Mary. For St Augustine, “Obedience is in a way the mother of all virtues.”
Mary’s obedience is risk-taking when she says, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” (v. 38). Her obedience is loving. She loves God and hence trusts in Him and obeys. She kept on saying, ‘YES’ to God, even when it pains until the end of her earthly life to be the Mother of God. Our God loves and values obedience, that is why Mary’s Fiat was rewarded with “overshadowing” of the Holy Spirit, whereas, Adams’s and Saul’s disobedience brought departure of God’s presence in their lives (Ge. 3:6; 1 Sam 16:14).
Finally, a Persian legend was narrated of a certain king who needed a faithful servant, and two men were candidates for the office. He took both at fixed wages, and his first order was that they should fill a basket with water from a neighboring well, saying that he would come in the evening to inspect their work. After putting in one or two bucket full of water into the basket, one man said, “What is the good of doing this useless work? As soon as we put the water inside the basket with several holes, it runs out. The other answered, “But we have our wages, haven’t we? Our master may have his plans.” “I am not going to do such fool’s work,” replied the other. Throwing down his bucket, he went away. The other man continued until he had drained the well. Looking down into it, he saw something shining—a diamond ring. “Now I see the use of pouring water into a basket with holes,” he cried. “If the bucket had brought up the ring before the well was emptied, it would have been found in the basket. Our work was not useless.”
Beloved, we Christians must believe that our divine Master knows what is best for us, and obey his commands, and in due time m we will know and understand. Mary understood this and obeyed God in all humility with her unequivocal”YES.”
MAY GOD HELP US TO ALWAYS SAY “YES” (FIAT), IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF OUR BLESSED MOTHER MARY TOWARDS PERFECTING GOD’S PLANS IN OUR LIFE. AMEN!
*GOD BLESS YOU AND HAPPY SUNDAY!*
FR GERALD MUOKA.