Saturday, December 20, 2008

Commentary for the Fourth Week of Advent by Sr. Susan Marie Lindstrom

What is more delightful than this voice of God calling us? See how God, in love, shows us the way of life.

(Prologue of the Rule of St Benedict, v. 19-20)

Our readings this Sunday speak of three people who obviously delighted in the God who called them by name: David, the faithful servant who entrusted his leadership to God’s guidance; Paul, the ardent apostle who entrusted his mission to God’s glory; Mary, the prayerful woman who entrusted her whole being to God’s promise.

The readings for this final Sunday in Advent heighten our anticipation of the coming of God among us. They speak of both hope and promise. They reflect the graciousness of God, a God who pours forth blessing on those who place their confidence in God.

David desires to build a house for God, a fitting dwelling for the Ark of the Covenant. God, however, desires to build a house for David… from David… a living reminder of God’s presence among the Chosen People.

God fulfills that desire, ultimately, as Mary brings Jesus to the world, a living reminder of God’s presence among us, God’s own people.

It is our gospel story of Mary’s “yes” that draws us into a deeper awareness of God’s invitations in our own lives. The angel tells Mary not to fear… not to let the immensity of the promise, the intensity of her feelings or the concerns about how this event will impact her life get in the way of her response. Mary obviously knows God’s providence; she is able to welcome this unexpected event not as an imposition, but as an opportunity to enter into a closer relationship with her God. Surely Mary must have nurtured a prayer life. How else could she possibly have been so open to Gabriel’s news? God, in turn, is ready to nurture God-life within Mary… literally! God simply awaits Mary’s receptivity and trust.

Mary probably did not fully understand what Gabriel was talking about. After all, who of us can adequately articulate the depth and wonder of our own call? Mary questioned Gabriel only because she wondered how her pregnancy would come about. Still, she listened with the ear of her heart and was able to give her “yes” in humility. She was able to embrace Benedict’s teaching, “What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask God to supply by the help of God’s grace.” (Prologue of the Rule of St Benedict, v. 41)

Mary is a woman who models both obedience and availability. Benedict could have been speaking of her in his chapter on obedience when he said, “Such people as these immediately put aside their own concerns, abandon their own will and lay down whatever they have in hand, leaving it unfinished.” (Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 5, verse 7) More than likely, Mary’s plans for her future were dramatically altered by the Incarnation, and yet her journey as the Mother of God taught her much and led her more deeply into the heart of God.

God desires to dwell among us, the people God has created. Advent would be meaningless if there were not people waiting with open hands and hearts to receive the gift of Emmanuel. Let us pray that we, like David and Mary, will let our hearts and beings forever sing of God’s goodness. Let us allow God to nurture life within each of us, especially in this last week of Advent, that Christmas find the Word made flesh enfleshed in our thoughts, words, and actions. May our lives truly magnify our God!

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