|"Be Not Afraid," Sunday Edition.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent.
Lessons from the secondary dominica, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Samuel 7: 1-5, 8-12, 14, 16.
• Psalm 89: 2-5, 27, 29.
• Romans 16: 25-27.
• Luke 1: 26-38.
"O RISING DAWN, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice; come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death."
9:53 AM 12/21/2014 — Today's Gospel lesson is exactly the same as yesterdays; and, since our Sunday crowd is different from our weekday crowd, and most of you weren't here yesterday, I'm going to share the same thoughts I shared yesterday. If you were here yesterday, I would suggest you slip out for a cup of coffee, but that would break your Eucharistic fast; so, you'll just have to suffer through it. When the hidden cameras we've installed this year in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima are up and running, and these services are being broadcast to the world, I guess I'll have to be a little less lazy and a bit more creative. And all of you will start worrying about what you're going to wear because you might be on TV.
The lesson we read, of course, is the Annunciation, the announcement to our Lady that she would be the Theotokos, the Mother of the Savior, the Mother of God; and, her docility to the will of God, delivered to her by an angel, harkens back to a similar attitude taken by the man who would soon after this become her husband, from whom we drew the same lesson in the Gospel three days ago. Make no mistake: the Blessed Virgin did not ask to be the Mother of God; she didn't apply for the job, in spite of the fact that God prepared her for it by her Immaculate Conception. I fear sometimes that we so mystify and embellish the saints so as to think that their will was somehow less free than ours, and that tasks which they appear to embrace without anxiety—so fancily and histrionically written about in your Lives of the Saints—came easily to them because of their holiness. Even the Mother of God, conceived without sin, was not immune to human doubt and human fear—otherwise she wouldn't have been human.
That's why Mary's life is the perfect example for all of us. Just as it was for her, the circumstances of our lives are often not choices we make for ourselves, and we may very well doubt our ability to be faithful in the difficulties they present. But as our Lord said in St. John, “It was not you that chose me, it was I that chose you” (John 15: 16 Knox); and, because he has chosen us, he will not abandon us. We can pretend that he has, because we don't want to admit to our failures. But that's only because we forget that the gift of Sufficient Grace, about which we've been thinking so much during this season, is not a guarantee that our lives will be problem free. Our Lord said that himself: “If any man has a mind to come my way, let him renounce self, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9: 23 Knox).
Now, those words may not sound particularly pleasant to us, but what the angel said to Mary at her Annunciation, he has also said to each one of us: he said it to me on the day I was ordained, he said it to many of you on the day you were married, he said it to each one of us on the day of our baptism: “Be not afraid.” If you go to a web site that searches Bible verses for you, and there are a few out there, and type in that phrase, you'll get hundreds of citations; I don't think there's a phrase that occurs more often throughout both the Old and New Testaments than “Be not afraid.” That one simple sentence, spoken by God through all eternity, sums up the entire Gospel on the subject of grace.
But so often we are afraid. We’re afraid of obligation. We’re afraid of sacrifice. And to overcome this fear we have to accept what we so often don't want to accept, especially when things are not going well: that God has not abandoned us. We must respond as Mary did: “…let it be unto me according to thy word.” Saying that did not mean that Mary understood it all, and I think it is unreasonable to assume that she did, for she did not have clairvoyance. What she did have was faith. Faith enough to say, " I will not be afraid." Just as we must say every single day: I will not be afraid of following the Lord. I will not be afraid of responsibility and obligation. I will not be afraid of living with a sudden and unexpected loss. I will not be afraid of marriage. I will not be afraid of the priesthood. I will not be afraid of the Gospel. I will not be afraid of the cross. I will not be afraid of things not going my way. I will not be afraid of doing what is right, no matter what the consequences. I will not be afraid of life.
And Jesus checked him with a word, and the devil came out of him; and from that hour the boy was cured. Afterwards, when they were alone, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, Why was it that we could not cast it out? Jesus said to them, Because you had no faith. I promise you, if you have faith, though it be but like a grain of mustard seed, you have only to say to this mountain, Remove from this place to that, and it will remove; nothing will be impossible to you (Matt. 17: 17-19 Knox).