With practically two days to go to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, it is essential to stop and appreciate Mary’s contribution in our spiritual journey throughout this Advent.
First of all, Mary has been constantly teaching us throughout this Advent journey that we are called to say our Fiat, Yes, to God, as she did. It was not easy for her to say yes to the angel Gabriel. At the time Mary was simply a young and unmarried woman. Against all human odds she was called to be the Mother of the Saviour. But what kept Mary going through all these challenges that divine election exposed her to? Her faith. How great and complete was her trust in God! Saint Augustine dwelt at length on Mary’s faith as the basis of her discipleship in his homily 72/A, 7 when he said:
“But look here, my brothers and sisters, concentrate more, I beg you, on what follows, concentrate more on what Christ the Lord said as he stretched out his hand over his disciples: This is my mother and these are my brothers; and whoever does the will of my Father who sent me, that person is a brother to me and a sister and a mother (Mt 12:49-50). Didn’t the Virgin Mary do the will of the Father? I mean, she believed by faith, she conceived by faith, she was chosen to be the one from whom salvation in the very midst of the human race would be born for us, she was created by Christ before Christ was created in her. Yes, of course, holy Mary did the will of the Father. And therefore it means more for Mary to have been a disciple of Christ than to have been the mother of Christ. It means more for her, an altogether greater blessing, to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been Christ’s mother. That is why Mary was blessed, because even before she gave him birth, she bore her teacher in her womb”.
We are challenged by Mary’s undisputed faith. We are called to live like her, fully trusting in God. But how are we trusting God’s unprecedented and risky plans for us? Are we ready to be misunderstood and judged because we fulfil God’s will? What holds really important in our lives, our human fallible word and will or God’s infallible and unshakeable word and will? And, what about the existential emptiness we all feel? Is it merely because life has become so difficult or because we have become too entrenched in our faulty ways of reasoning and doing things?
Mary’s gaze for this Advent reminds me that God is glorified when I give myself generously in little things. In these remaining expectation hours for Christmas Mary’s most convincing example stands out. What did she do when she got to know of the miraculous pregnancy of her cousin Elizabeth? The Lukan text speaks of itself: In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah (Luke 1:39). The Greek text is: ἐπορεύθη μετὰ σπουδῆς (eporeuthē meta spoudēs), namely that Mary went, departed and proceeded to help her cousin with haste, in a hurry and with that earnestness and forwardness.
But how that was possible for Mary? The Greek text uses the verb Ἀναστᾶσα (Anastasa). This verb, which means arose, having risen up, got up, reminds us of Jesus’ resurrection. In simple words, if you and me want to celebrate Christmas authentically this year and not let ourselves be submerged by the frantic alienation we have around us it is pivotal that we let the Holy Spirit to rise us up from our egoism to hurriedly go and serve those who are at the fringes of our church, family, community and society. This is so because Christmas, as Pope Francis rightly described in his general audience of 27 December 2017, is the feast of a God who “engages those who, confined to the margins of society, are the first beneficiaries of his gift, … the salvation borne by Jesus”.
Can I let Mary’s faith and intercession drive me to care for the rejected, mistreated and indigent people? Am I realizing that it is with the latter that God wishes to build a new world according to his heart?
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap