When King David was settled in his palace, and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!" Nathan answered the king, "Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you." But that night the Lord spoke to Nathan and said: "Go tell my servant David, "Thus says the Lord: Should you build me a house to dwell in?""
"It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the Earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also reveals to you that He will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever."(P) The word of the Lord.
The promises of the Lord I will sing forever; through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness. For you have said, "My kindness is established forever; in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness." (R)
"I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: "Forever will I confirm your posterity, and establish your throne for all generations."" (R)
"He shall say of me, "You are my father, my God, the Rock, my savior." Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him, and my covenant with him stands firm." (R)
Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.(P) The word of the Lord.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."
"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "They Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
A man was walking down the road in the morning towards his office, busily looking at his mobile phone. Suddenly, he heard a voice: "Stop! Stand still! If you take one step forward, a brick will fall down on your head and kill you." The man stopped and a big brick fell right in front of him. He was shocked but continued walking. After a while, as he was about to cross the road, the voice shouted once again: "Stop! Stand still! If you take one step forward, a car will run over you and you will die." The man did as he was instructed, and just then a car came careening around the corner at high speed, barely missing him. Greatly shaken up by this, the man asked, "Where are you?", "And who are you?" "I am your guardian angel", the voice replied. "Oh yeah?" the man said, "Where were you when I got married?"
Over two thousand years ago, a young Jewish virgin girl named Mary was just going about her daily activities and looking forward to her upcoming marriage with Joseph. Suddenly, an angel by the name of Gabriel - in Hebrew, meaning "God is my strength," or "mighty one" - appeared to Mary and greeted her with the words, Chaire, kecharitomene in Greek, which translates in English as, "Hail, the one who has been perfectly and completely graced by God!" or "Rejoice, the highly favoured one!" The common Catholic rendering is: "Hail, full of grace!" The usual Jewish greeting is Shalom Aleichem meaning "Peace be upon you!"
Therefore, when the angel greeted her, "You are graced by God" and further added, "The Lord is with you", as you might imagine, she was deeply disturbed at this and perhaps a little frightened and wondered what such a greeting could mean, Luke (1:29). But the angel comforted her and told her that she does not have to be afraid because she found favour with God, Luke (1:30). And then there was an impossible but truly awesome news for Mary. The angel said to her that she was going to conceive a child and bear a son, whose name would be Jesus, and that He would be great. Not only that, but also her child would be the Son of God, a king for David's throne, and He would reign over Israel for ever, Luke (1:32-33). The Angel's news was more than Mary could take in or understand. So, she asked how she could possibly have a child when she was not yet married.
In response to Mary's question about how this was to happen since she was a virgin, the angel said to her that the conception would be result of the Holy Spirit's work in her and, for that reason, "the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God", Luke (1:35). By now, no doubt, Mary was completely baffled. But the angel further reassured Mary of the possibility of all these by giving her a concrete sign. He informed her that her relative, Elizabeth, who was already quite old and called barren - which, at that time, was considered a disgrace - was six months pregnant. This news was virtually unbelievable, but Mary believed it. So, despite her fears and concerns, she humbly said to the angel: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word", Luke (1:38a).
Mary described herself as the "handmaid of the Lord", signifying her acceptance of God's will for her. Although strong in her faith, she was initially startled by the angel's appearance and announcement. However, after the angel further explained God's plan of salvation to her, she humbly accepted this honour bestowed on her and joyfully agreed to cooperate with God's will for her. Then the angel left her, Luke (1:38b). Soon after this, Luke writes that Mary got ready and went to the home town of Elizabeth and Zechariah, which is traditionally believed to be Ein Karem on the outskirts of West Jerusalem, to confirm Gabriel's words concerning Elizabeth and to tell her about her own pregnancy. When she found out that it was exactly as Gabriel had said, it would confirm to her that the message he had given her would also come to be fulfilled.
What is the message for us?
During Advent, we prepare for three comings of Jesus Christ - The First Coming, which occurred in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago; the Second Coming, which occurs here and now in a variety of ways; and the Third Coming, which will occur at our death, as well as at the end of time.
With that in mind, we read in the first week a passage from the gospel of Mark concerning Jesus' Second Coming, Mark (13:33-37). We were reminded that, just like the servants waiting for their Master's return from a long journey at an unexpected time, we must stay awake and be ready for Jesus' return because no one knows the hour or the day of His coming.
In the second week, we read Mark's description of John's preaching in the desert, Mark (1:1-18). John told the Jews that, while the baptism in water was indeed a radical religious event, baptism in the Holy Spirit administered by the coming Messiah would be exponentially more powerful and significant. John's preaching simply reminds us that every one of us must repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and receive the Holy Spirit.
In the third week, we read in John's gospel of John the Baptist denying that He is the Christ, the Messiah, or Elijah or the Prophet foretold by Moses but saying instead that he was just preparing for the Messiah who was, in fact, in their midst and whom they do not recognize. The testimony of John the Baptist is a wonderful reminder that, while we patiently wait for our Lord Jesus to appear, we must learn to recognize our Lord Jesus in the many ways he shows up in our lives. Watching out for Jesus is a lifelong process.
Today, we read the story of the angel's announcement of Jesus' birth, i.e. Jesus' First Coming and Mary's response to the Angel's announcement and explanation. As Mary was prepared for the birth of Jesus, the Church prepares us to celebrate His birth once again. She was chosen by God to be the Mother of His Son, Jesus. We can't be Mary and be used the way she was, but God has a plan for each of us and has chosen us like Mary, as Saint Paul writes, "before the foundation of the world", for a similar task - to bring forth spiritual life to our spouses, children, family, and friends, Ephesians (1:4).
It does not imply that God has rejected others. We have the freedom to reject God's offer. But it is hoped that each of us will, like Mary, willingly and heartily assent to God's offer. And, like Mary, this can lead us into surprising, even amazing situations. We can find ourselves heading in directions that, left to ourselves, we could never have imagined.
We can find ourselves experiencing joy, but also misunderstandings, humiliation, unjust criticism, disgrace, rejection, loneliness, separation, abandonment, and loss of things and people dear to us. However, in times like these, as Mary had done, we need to surrender ourselves fully into God's hands and to venture into an unknown future by relying solely on God's assurance of His presence with us. We need to move from "How can this be" to "Let it be done according to Thy will." Let us humbly and joyfully accept our own call to be a Christian father or mother or teacher or doctor or nurse or priest or sister. Let us thank the Lord that God has favoured us to bear fruit like Mother, for eternity.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
God Bless You!