December 20, 2020
Fourth Sunday of Advent, year B
As Christmas approaches, today’s liturgy presents us with a Gospel known and dear to all of us, the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38). On the eve of Christmas, the Church presents us again in splendid simplicity the Incarnation mystery and the Virgin Mary’s role in it.
God himself intervenes in history, in the life of this humble girl from Nazareth, and accomplishes a new thing: a new covenant, a new wonder, new salvation, which is the very presence of God among us. He takes our flesh and lives among us. And all this happens without human intervention, but only on the initiative of God.
Before sin, man’s life consisted of freely allowing God to intervene in his history, for Him to be the Lord and the author of life. Sin undermined this relationship because Adam chose to manage his existence by himself, without the intervention of God’s hand: the opposite of what was in God’s desire. But what man does on his own, sooner or later, collapses. What comes from God remains forever.
The new thing, salvation, could only be this: God would intervene anew and that man, again, let Him do it. Mary’s free “yes” allowed God also not only to intervene in our history but to become history.
In the Virgin Mary, God goes further: He comes to dwell in a temple not made by human hands, in the temple that we are, which is our life, our body. And He doesn’t come with a cloud, with a sign of His presence: He comes Himself, He comes in person.
The Virgin, in today’s Gospel, leaves us two indications.
The first is to believe that nothing is impossible for God (Lk 1:37). Believing is crediting that this invisible hand of God still works, and it precisely reaches where humans cannot: it comes to generate life in the sterile womb of Elizabeth (Lk 1:36), in the womb of Mary, who does not know the work of man (Lk 1:34).
God works without human intervention, but not without man. His hand stops before the creature’s freedom, asks permission, and does not enter until after man accepts: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:37).
To believe is, therefore, to listen, to welcome, to trust, to offer oneself.
The second indication that we learn from the Virgin Mary is to accept to enter the time of gestation, a time of patience and silence, of hiddenness and waiting.
Humans do things in a moment, but God’s works need time; they happen slowly: the newborn needs a long gestation.
Man consumes his time voraciously, while God’s time unfolds over long distances: He digs in-depth, lays deep foundations. It is the time of all seasons necessary so that the seed may bear fruit.
After Mary’s “yes,” the uncertainties and doubts did not dissolve; no one smoothed out the problems that, slowly, life brought them to meet. No angel ever came to explain the events. Not even under the Cross. However, fidelity to that “yes” is the origin of a new world and a new way of being in it.
It is an essential indication of our hectic and uncertain time, so scared and eager to possess everything immediately.