4th Sunday of Advent – OTB

2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8-12, 14-16 Romans 16: 25-27 Luke 1: 26-38

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The FBI agents conducted a raid in a psychiatric hospital in Santiago that was under investigation for medical insurance fraud. After hours of reviewing thousands of medical records, the dozens of agents were terribly hungry. The chief in charge of the investigation called a nearby pizza parlor with delivery service to order a quick dinner for his colleagues. Here is the recorded text of the conversation.

Agent: Hello. I would like to order 19 large pizzas and 67 cans of soda. Pizza Man: And where would you like them delivered? Agent: We’re over at the psychiatric hospital, and we are all FBI agents, and since we have locked the front door to help our operations, you will have to go around to the back to the service entrance to deliver the pizzas. Pizza Man: A group of FBI agents calling from the psychiatric hospital that I should come with 19 large pizzas and 67 cans of sodas through the back door? Agent: That’s right, and it is very urgent. We’ve been here all day and we’re starving. I have my F.B.I. checkbook right here. Will you show up soon? Pizza Man: I don’t think so. Agent: Why? Pizza Man: Because last week it was President Obama who ordered pizzas from that psychiatric hospital for his White House staff! I shall ask your doctors to give you stronger medicines to ward off your F.B.I. hallucinations and to help you sleep well. Bye.” Click. Bzzz.

The feeling that the Pizza Man had as he participated in that conversation may have been something like what the teenaged Mary felt at the beginning of her encounter with the angelic messenger on the day of the Annunciation.

Mary’s choice was no easy one. As a teenage girl, betrothed but not yet married to Joseph, she was being asked to become pregnant by a heavenly source. Betrothal was regarded as a full commitment to one’s future spouse, and for such a girl to lose her virginity was tantamount to adultery, a sin punishable by death.

Mary’s question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” springs from an understandable confusion. Mary is fully aware of the significance and consequences of the angel’s message. In a flash, she recognizes the new challenges that will emerge in her betrothal and the crisis into which this pregnancy could throw both families (see Deut 22:13-21 and Num 5:11-31). But the angel reminds Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.” He will “empower” her (“the spirit will come upon you”) and “protect” her (“overshadow you”).

Mary does not require confirmation, but responds in faith. She agrees to carry out the Word Gabriel has addressed to her. Her humble acquiescence to the will of God commends itself to every believer: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let what you have said be done to me.” Mary is thus presented as the perfect disciple. Those who find out what God wants of them and accept his message as Mary did are Jesus’ true followers. Those who only hear the Word but never put it into action are deceiving themselves. Christian faith is a matter of continually making Jesus a part of our lives.

Jesus’ earthly existence begins with Mary’s “Yes” in today’s account of the Annunciation. Although we normally regard the birth of Jesus as the beginning of God’s presence among us, the Church teaches that the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit took place at the moment that Mary agreed to be the mother of Jesus. If Mary had said “No,” instead of “Yes,” history might have been different – although we know that God’s plans would not have been frustrated. Mary’s “Yes,” changed the world. Her obedience to God’s call changed the lives of all of us. How many times have we said “No,” to God? How different would things be – for us and for others – if we had said “Yes,” to him more often?

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