Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18, 2005

This isn't exactly as I preached it, but the ideas are close. May it help our preparations to welcome the birth of our Savior.

“Let it be done to me according to your word.”

The rhythm of the Church year has again shifted. We aren’t with John the Baptist in the desert any more. During this final week of Advent – one that is a full week long this year – we focus on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Almost as by an echo, today we hear again the Gospel for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

No better Christmas preparation exists than to contemplate the mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her role in Salvation History. As Catholics, we are blessed with devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, especially through the beautiful prayer of the most holy rosary. Mary intercedes for us body and soul before the throne of her Divine Son. Mary is the recipient of the promises of salvation. She is completely free from sin, from the first moment of her existence. She remained faithful to her Son, even to the foot of the Cross.

All of the graces, privileges, and honors given to the Blessed Virgin exist because of the event we just heard: the Annunciation. St. Augustine tells us that Mary “conceived the word in her heart before she conceived Him in her womb.” The fulfillment of Mary’s faith in Yahweh, made possible by her sinlessness and rich interior life of prayer and reflection, happens at this moment: “The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.”

The mystery of a Virgin giving birth – the mystery of Mary being a Virgin before and after the birth of her son – is eclipsed only by the more wonderful truth that God Himself is the child in Mary’s womb. The joy that is ours is boundless, in knowing that God has become one of us, to redeem us from our sins and restore us to life with Him for all eternity. And what is Mary’s response to this earth-shattering revelation? That she will be the Mother of God?

“Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Are our hearts prepared to make the same response to God this Christmas? As we kneel in prayer during these final days of preparation, can we echo Mary’s words – or does fear captivate our hearts and prevent us from giving everything to God? Mary’s answer to the angel must be our own. But what inner strength gave her the complete freedom to say, “Yes” to God so absolutely, so perfectly?

She was free from sin and she was constant in prayer.

As we celebrated on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Mary was completely free from sin. She was conceived without Original Sin, and never committed even a venial sin throughout her entire life. Her soul was filled with the love of God throughout her entire life.

Secondly, Mary maintained a life of constant prayer. She knew our Lord, even before the Holy Spirit came upon her to conceive Jesus in her womb. Several times throughout her life, we read that “Mary pondered these things in her heart.” She constantly referred her will to God’s will in prayer. She knew, because of her intimate relationship with God, that she could trust Him beyond her own knowledge. As strange as it must have seemed to now be the mother of God’s only Son, she had absolute trust in Him, because she knew Him in prayer. Her heart was free to give herself completely to God: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary is an example for each of us. Her unconditional “Yes” to God is a model for our own response to His initiative: He reaches out to us daily, asking us to bring Christ into the world anew.

But we aren’t free from sin – how can we be free at all when we’re bound by our daily faults? How can we choose God when we so often choose ourselves instead? And how can we maintain “constant prayer,” with so many distractions and obligations? Time seems so short.

God gives us the grace of repentance and the certainty of our forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Wednesday, we will be hearing Confessions from 5 – 9 pm. This opportunity to unburden our souls from sin is a perfect way to prepare for the coming of the Christ-child. And by a regular reception of the Sacrament of Penance, our hearts become accustomed to being open before the Lord. We grow in humility, grace, and true freedom when we strive to avoid sin and grow in virtue – and to repent when we sin. We can then say, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

By maintaining a constant desire for God, we can begin to “pray always,” keeping the presence of God in our souls, and developing our relationship with Him. Practically, though, we also need to pray at certain times to call our minds back to these good intentions. The rosary is an excellent example of prayer that is both vocal and mental. Another favorite prayer of mine is the Angelus, which mediates on the mystery of today’s Liturgy: the Annunciation. Traditionally, the Angelus bells would ring in the parish church at 6 am, noon, and 6 pm. When the bells rang, the people would stop and recall the mystery of the Incarnation with the following prayer:

[recite the Angelus]

You can find the Angelus in many prayer books, or on the Internet. You don’t need to pray it at those exact times, but when we recall the great gift of Jesus Christ to us at morning, noon, and evening, our hearts will start to respond more and more generously when God asks us to serve Him in the unborn, the poor, and those who don’t know Him. The practice of daily prayer helps unite our hearts and minds to God, growing in trust to be able to answer His invitation to serve Him: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

What is God asking of you this Christmas? What difficult path does God ask you to share with Him? What suffering, challenge, or difficulty has He placed before you?

May we answer with the Blessed Virgin: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”