The revelation of the mystery
It’s the 4th Sunday of Advent already. Our Advent preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth is nearly complete – and it seems that the days have flown by. We are almost there. Next Wednesday our Christmas eve liturgies begin and once again we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
The Old Testament readings – our first reading from the book of Samuel, and then Psalm 89, as well as St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, point to Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. St. Paul stated it this way “according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings...”
For those of you who love studying the Bible, it really is amazing to begin to see the extent to which Jesus and the Church are a marvelous fulfillment of what was promised by God through the prophets. All of this revelation reaches its fullness in the person of Jesus. And Jesus brings it all to fulfillment within His Church. For the one who was born in time 2000 years ago still fulfills the promise today. This was the mystery that was kept secret for long ages, which we can now see.
And the one who we proclaim as Lord and whose birth we celebrate in just a few short days will indeed come again. This is another mystery of his coming into the world. And his second coming draws ever closer. Will we see it? Will we be spiritually awake for his coming?
Our Advent of waiting for Christmas – just a few days left to complete – reminds us that we continue in an Advent of more cosmic proportions – waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ at the end of this present age.
We can say with greater certainty now that we are living in a time of the New Advent. There is a new waiting for the coming of the Savior, just as there was an Old Advent prior to his birth. Mary, the mother of the first Advent, is the one who shows us the way during our time of the New Advent. The story of the Annunciation gives us a pattern to follow in the tumultuous days that lie ahead of us.
1. Prayer. When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and greeted her with those amazing lines “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you” her first reaction was to ponder. In other words, she prayerfully considered things. This is contemplation. In other places in the gospel we hear about how Mary pondered these things in her heart. Our world is full of noise and distraction – so much so that it is any wonder if any of us has the awareness to recognize the action of God in our time. But contemplation – prayerful consideration of the events in our lives and the events in the world, helps us to unveil the mystery. Setting aside that time of prayerful quiet and reflection gives space in our lives for the Lord to reveal his presence to us. Mary is the model of contemplative prayer, even as a teenage girl. And so let all of us, young and old, make time and space in our days for contemplative prayer.
2. Obedience. The Obedience of Mary to the word of God is marvelous. It is easy to imagine her listening so carefully to the word of the angel, considering the implications of what was being asked of her. We can be sure that she was not ignorant of the risks of saying yes to a pregnancy that did not involve her fiancé Joseph. She knew right away the possible risks. But her careful listening to the Word of God, and her absolute trust in the God who loved her, made it possible for Mary to say “yes” to what God asked of her. In the same way, our careful listening to the Word of God, and our practice of trust, leads us to give a deeper “yes” to God’s call to us. Mary is the model of obedience. And so let us all, young and old, arrange our lives so that each moment becomes a “yes” to God’s will for us.
3. Service. After the angel departed, Mary left immediately to go to her cousin Elizabeth. In saying “yes” to God’s will for her, she had the power to take the next right step. And what a marvelous next right step this was for Mary – going to her cousin Elizabeth, rejoicing with her in what God was doing with them, and helping one another. So it is with us. When we prayerfully consider what God is doing in our midst, we can more easily say yes to the will of God for us. And saying yes leads us to take the next right step – to offer ourselves in loving service.
Prayer, obedience, and service - all of this comes from a heart full of love. This is the simple way that Mary shows us. This is the way of Mary – who leads us as a loving mother to the greatest unfolding of the mystery – the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
His revelation in time 2000 years ago.
His revelation of salvation for us today.
His revelation when he comes again in glory.