December 8, 2021, 2021
Luke 1: 26-38
“Grace is God’s favor; grace is participation in God’s life. … Thus, grace is not a thing that comes from God but is an act of God that shows us something of who God is. To ‘receive grace’ is to experience God acting… in our lives.” This quote from Sacramental Theology by Kurt Stasiak, OSB is at the heart of the feast of the Immaculate Conception which we celebrate today. The Church is reminding us that Mary had this grace, participation in God’s life, from the first moment of her conception. And it is also a reminder that we, through our Baptism also have grace. We, too, can experience God acting in our lives as Mary did. The liturgical year is graced because with each season and each feast we are able to reflect on how God wishes to act in our life.
The Church situates this feast In December, in Advent and close to the Birth of Jesus. Today’s Gospel is the story of the Annunciation. Mary is told by the Angel Gabriel that she is full of grace and that she has found favor with God. She will conceive the Son of the Most High, the Son of God! Mary’s “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” was her response to the One she loved. In saying yes to God, Mary would also respond in love when she encountered misery: Simeon’s “a sword shall pierce your heart,” the loss of Jesus in the Temple, the crucifixion of her Son.
In October of this year, Pope Francis announced a Synod on Synodality. The word Synod means journeying together. And Synodality is the process of listening to a broad range of people, discussing issues to hear the Holy Spirit guiding the Church. Synodality is not about winners and losers. It is about speaking with frankness and boldness, listening humbly and being open to new ideas. This Synod is a 2-year process, it began on October 10, 2021 and will culminate in October 2023 at the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. It seems most appropriate for the Holy Father to have set this process to begin and end in October, the month traditionally set aside to honor Mary. This upcoming synod is unlike any previous one. It starts with and involves all the faithful at local Churches across the world, promising to listen to all, especially to laypeople. Pope Francis says this Synod is about Communion, Participation, and Mission. Who better to look to for all these qualities than Mary?
This feast offers us much to ponder:
+Each of us is invited to “birth” Christ into our world, help Christ come alive for the people in our lives. How do I do this? How might I do this better than I already do?
+How well do I listen? Listen to God? Listen to my sisters and brothers? Listen to the world around me?
+How is God acting/how might God wish to act in my life now?
+As the people of God engage in this current Synod process in whatever way, certainly praying for its fruition, what do I hope and pray for my local Church and the Church universal?
Mary, help me birth Christ in our world, teach me to listen and respond to God as you did, and may the participants in this Synod look to you as a model of communion, participation, and mission.
Luke 1: 26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, “Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her. “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” the angel answered “and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.”
“I am the handmaid of the Lord,” said Mary “Let what you have said be done to me.” And the angel left her.
The Gospel of the Lord