The Fourth Sunday of Advent is upon us. Our time of waiting for Christmas is coming to an end.
For most of us, this year’s Advent has been overshadowed by the coronavirus. Yet, as we’ve seen, the Sunday readings during this Advent — with their themes of vigilance, hope and constancy — seem uniquely fitting this year, as if they were chosen especially for a world facing a pandemic. And now, as we experience the final week of Advent, the readings again remind us of our need to place our complete trust in God.
Trusting in God and discernment of God’s will isn’t always easy, but it is essential if we are to seek and follow Christ. The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent recalling the angel’s message to Mary reminds us of that. “Even amid these troubled times, the mystery of the Incarnation reminds us that God continually comes to encounter us,” Pope Francis has written. “He is God-with-us, who walks along the often dusty paths of our lives. He knows our anxious longing for love, and he calls us to joy.”
It’s hard to make sense of the “troubled times” of 2020 — but often, we do not understand the “dusty path” we are on. The ancient Jews didn’t either, as they wandered through the desert, suffered internal division, conquest and exile, and waited for the promised Messiah. They did not know precisely how God was going to fulfill his promise.
The readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent also remind us that God’s plan for redemption was a “mystery kept secret for long ages” (Rom 16:25-27). God revealed himself gradually to the Jews and remained faithful to his covenants even though the Jewish people often failed to keep their end of the bargain. But the faithful among them continued to trust in God’s promise of a king, an heir of David whose kingdom would “stand firm forever” (2 Sam 7:16).
At first, Mary didn’t understand the Angel Gabriel’s message. How is this possible, she asked, since I am a virgin? It was not a question of doubt, but of puzzlement. She was to conceive the son of God , the one God had promised to rule on David’s throne forever, through the power of the Holy Spirit. More than likely, the angel’s explanation only raised more questions in her mind. It was a lot for anyone to take in, perhaps more so for a young woman like Mary.
But her response revealed her complete abandonment to God: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
In the Blessed Virgin’s words we find a model for our own daily lives as followers of Christ. We are God’s servants. We are called to seek holiness. And as the great spiritual writer Jean-Pierre de Caussade wrote, “In reality, holiness consists of one thing only: complete loyalty to God’s will.”
We have nothing to fear if we put our trust completely in God’s will and his plan for our lives. The angel told Mary, “Do not be afraid!” When Christ revealed himself to his followers after his resurrection, he said likewise: “Be not afraid!” Through our present trials, we ought to maintain our Advent vigilance as we wait his coming in glory, trusting in God’s promise and submitting to his will as Mary did, in confidence and not fear.
Gerald Korson, a veteran Catholic journalist, is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Indiana. This is his four reflection in the Knights of Columbus’ Advent 2020 series. Read the reflection for the third week of Advent here. The first and second reflections can be found here and here.
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