4th Week of Advent
Psalter: Week 4
Ps 24:1–2, 3–4ab, 5–6
Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.
1st Reading: Is 7:10–14
Once again Yahweh addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from Yahweh your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”
But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put Yahweh to the test.”
Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The Virgin is with child and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel.
Gospel: Lk 1:26–38
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean.
But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever and his reign shall have no end.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be if I am a virgin?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the holy child to be born shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child, and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”
Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.
Why are Mary and Zechariah treated differently? Both had doubts about the viability of God’s plan, but only one is punished. Did God have a soft spot for Mary? Perhaps the answer lies in each one’s personal context. Zechariah was a priest and he belonged to a priestly family. Elizabeth came from a priestly clan as well. Surely, they should be familiar with the strange and surprising ways of God. At their age one would expect them to be wiser. Both were married, open, and desirous of begetting a child. Moreover, the angel appeared to Zechariah in an ambience where one would expect to encounter God—in prayer, in the Sanctuary of the Lord. Now look at Mary: a little girl, young and raw, who has not begun a married life where one normally plans for children. She possibly came from a peasant family of humble origin, with no claims of scholarship in Sacred Scripture. Though we like to present Mary on her knees praying when the angel appeared to her, we have no supportive evidence in Scripture. Most probably the angel met her in the midst of her daily chores, catching her by surprise.
No wonder, God had a soft spot for Mary. For her doubts were honest and sincere. So was her faith as well.
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