4th Sunday of Advent
Three guys were fishing on a lake one day, when Jesus suddenly appears and walks across the water and join them in their boat.
When the three astonished men had calmed down enough to speak, the first guy asks, “Jesus, I’ve suffered from back pain ever since I took shrapnel in Afghanistan…could you help me?”
“Of course, my son”, Jesus says, and when he touches the man’s back, he feels relief for the first time in years.
The second man, who wore very thick glasses and had a hard time reading and driving, asks if Jesus could do anything to help with his eyesight.
Jesus smiles, and says, “Of course my son.” Then he removes the man’s glasses, tosses them in the lake, and when they hit the water, the man’s eyes clear up and he can see everything perfectly.
Next, Jesus turns to the third man who was on crutches. But the guy puts his hands up and cries out defensively, “Don’t touch me, Jesus! I’m on long-term disability.”
Yes, sometimes we resist the miraculous that God can and wants to do in our lives. And we often have a plethora of reasons for doing so. Sometimes, it’s a lack of trust in God. At other times, it’s a doubt that God wants to intervene so directly in our lives. At other times, it may be that we like the attention we receive from having received misfortune. At still other times, it may be a selfish motivation for remaining in our current state of affairs, like gaining the sympathy of others, allowing us to play the martyr, or enabling us to complain all the time about how the world and everyone in it, is against us.
Yet all of these hurdles are just that. Hurdles. Until we’re able to overcome them, we’ll never be able to fully live the authentic human life and vocation to which the Lord has called us. Until we recognize these hurdles as obstacles to the miracles God wants to perform in our lives, we’ll never be spiritually prepared to receive the wonders God has prepared for us. Until we’re ready to allow God to enter every facet of our lives, we won’t be able to see what God sees in us and to accept the grace which God longs to pour out upon us, particularly in moments of struggle and adversity. That’s what these glasses on display this weekend are meant to remind us of.
And that’s where the life and example of Mary come into play. She teaches us to see as God sees. She’s ever ready to teach us what we need to do in order to allow the miraculous to enter into our lives with full force and vigor. One of the reasons Mary was the perfect conduit for the miracle of the Lord’s birth into our world was the fact that she was full of grace. That fullness was the result of a special intervention by God whose prevenient grace made her, for all time, sinless from the moment of her Immaculate conception in the womb of her mother Anne, right up through her glorious assumption into Heaven. Mary wants us to know that, though we ourselves are sinners, that doesn’t mean that we have to accept a sinful life. We don’t have to accept sinful habits that we’ve found difficult to defeat. Thanks be to God, we can repent and obtain forgiveness of our sins! We can be justified by our faith in Christ and sanctified by God’s Holy Spirit, each day, so as to be fully disposed to the grace our Lord wants us to give us.
Mary also urges us to turn to her for strength and courage in confronting sin and allow her to intercede for us to her Son. Who better to stand in the gap for us than the Mother of God, the one who is called Blessed among women? —the only human being who is already enjoying the life of the world to come, with a glorified body and soul already united in eternal glory?!
Consider that Mary most likely was only 13 years old when she’d been given the announcement by the Angel Gabriel of her maternal vocation. I’m sure she had her own ideas of how her life was going to unfold and what sort of life as a Hebrew woman lay before her.
And yet, Mary’s willing to forego her own hopes and dreams in order to live out the trajectory that God has envisioned for her. Mary’s life therefore teaches us to trust that God indeed has a plan for each one of our lives. God’s had one ever since we were created! There’s a reason for each one of us being here today, listening to his homily, worshipping together as a family of faith in Sudbury in 2021.
Even if we think we know where it is that the Lord’s leading us in life, we can’t be certain, without continued discernment and openness to the voice of the Spirit, who makes that will persistently known. One Ignatian way of arriving at some sort of certainty is to consider whether we’re in a state of consolation (which is another way of saying that we’re not depressed or anxious or worried at the time) and are hearing the Lord speak the same life-giving message to us in different ways and through different people. If that’s happening consistently, then the chances are good that it’s the will of God making itself known to us and encouraging us to reply with an open heart, mind and soul to whatever it is, the Lord may be requiring of us. We can ignore it all we want. We can place it on the back burner of our lives as a plan B or C. But regardless of our manner of avoidance, if it’s a calling from God, it’ll never go away. It’ll nag at us over and over again, until we decide to respond unbegrudgingly to it.
It’s that openness to the Will of God that’s vital, for without it, we’re only doing our will and not God’s. We’re fulfilling our dreams rather than God’s dreams for us. —Or we’re reacting based on negative circumstances to insulate us from potential hurt that we’re afraid may come our way.
—Or we’re satisfying ourselves with some lesser vision of God for us, rather than the full vision which the Lord desires to be made manifest. The trick is to enable our will to be conformed to the Divine will. — To let our ‘Yes’ be a ‘Yes’ to God wholeheartedly.
Our ‘Yes’ to God’s vision for our lives always manifests itself, in some way or other, in service to others, for our vocations are always intended to lead ourselves and others to God, to enable all persons to find, in God, a safe haven to belong and to be loved and accepted, with all their sins and shortcomings. Our ‘Yes’ to God’s vision then, is never a selfish ‘yes.’ It’s always a ‘Yes’ that brings greater glory and praise to God!
We see this played out in our Gospel today. Even though Mary was herself pregnant, and could have anticipated others to attend to her needs, she instead, goes to visit her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, to assist her in her household duties as she prepares to give birth to her son.
It’s at this time that the baby, John, leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth! For even ‘in utero,’ the nearness of God is recognized and celebrated! Even ‘in utero,’ John intuitively senses that a new age has dawned in our world and that the dominion sin and death is coming to an end through the coming of Christ child into our world! Even ‘in utero’ John begins the proclamation of the Gospel, that Light has come into our world, that our Emmanuel is the baby to be incarnate of the Virgin Mary!
May each of us have that same sense of joy in the nearness of our God as John had! May each of us receive the grace to see ourselves as God sees us and to be ever willing to turn to the Virgin Mother of God to assist us in living up to all the potentials and dreams God has for our lives. And may each of us live the remainder of this Advent season in eager anticipation of the memorial of the miracle of our Saviour’s birth.
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