For the last three weeks we’ve looked at three words for Advent: Light
. Last week we looked at Elizabeth and how she was filled with joy when Mary came to see visit her. She heard Mary’s greeting and was filled with the Holy Spirit and the child in her womb leaped for joy (Luke 1:41-44).
Earlier in the Gospel of Luke, we read about how Mary, who may have been about 14 years old, received a visit from an angel (Luke 1:26-28). The Angel tells her that she will conceive and bear a son (Luke 1:29-33). Mary asks how this can be since she is a virgin (Luke 1:34) and the angel explains how the child will be the Son of God (Luke 1:35-37).
You may recall three weeks ago
, we saw Zechariah, who had a similar visit from the same angel. At a glance it seems that Zechariah asks the same question, “How can this be?” But Zechariah is punished for his lack of faith. Instead, Mary, who also questions, is not.
May I suggest that the difference is in their attitude? We know their attitude by the angel’s response. Zechariah may have been cynical and dismissive. Mary, on the other hand, likely had an accepting attitude.
The difference, perhaps, is that Mary had a certain peace about the whole thing that Zechariah did not have.
This is why today’s character is Mary.
It’s easy, in our sanitation of the Gospels, to think that Mary was a cute, innocent, serious, pious, holy little girl who was always obedient, prayed all day long and never laughed. She was
Holy and full of Grace (and still is - and probably was
cute), but we do know (at least from last week
) that she laughed. She must also have been a real girl with hopes and dreams, with fears and joys. Mary was scared (greatly troubled, says Luke 1:29) when the angel appeared (as any normal girl should be). She should have also been scared and confused about this whole, “you will conceive and bear a son” business when she was not yet married. She knew what happened to young girls who got pregnant outside of marriage. To say she was deeply troubled is an understatement.
Just as joy is not just an absence of sadness; peace is not just an absence of conflict. Peace is Shalom
which means much more. The Hebrew word that we translate to mean “peace” comes from shalam
which means to be safe in mind, body or state. It is a “peace” that has to do with fullness, completeness and wholeness. It is a word that is also used to capture the meaning of generously giving back (shulam
means to be fully paid). It is a wholeness that requires the coming together of opposites (that’s why it’s a greeting and a farewell – two people say shalom
to each other when they are coming together).
The word shalom
refers to an inner wholeness and harmony. This is a quality that I think Mary had, not just when she was a young girl and an angel appeared to her, but throughout her life. It is also a quality that you and I can have. We don’t need to be full of Grace in order to have shalom
This Advent and every Advent we are reminded to be a people of peace.
What does it mean to be a person of peace? Does it mean that we avoid conflict? Not necessarily. Sometimes conflict is necessary. Does it mean that we are pacifists? Maybe, but sometimes violence is needed when defending an innocent life. But being a person of peace means that we are always working towards the common good. It means that we always work for Truth, Beauty and Goodness. It means that we strive towards an inner wholeness and harmony. Of course, this shalom
can only be achieved through the Grace of the One who is
the Prince of Peace.
Advent is not a preparation for Christmas.
Advent is a reminder that Jesus Christ is coming. Advent is a reminder of what we need to be doing all year round. Just as last week we said that joy is not an option, being a people of peace is not an option. If we are truly striving for holiness and seeking a love relationship with Jesus Christ, we should be filled with peace. Living the Christian life should fill us with peace. I have never understood how one can be a Christian if one is constantly troubled, perpetually agitated, stressed, perturbed or distracted.
Yet all of us know people who are anything but filled with peace. Many of us have had moments when we are so bogged down with stress and worry that peace and inner harmony seem entirely unreachable. Some of you are experiencing that lack of peace right now.
Advent is not only a time to longingly wait for the Prince of Peace, but it is a time when we are reminded to seek wholeness and completeness; to seek harmony with one-self, with God, with others and with all Creation. Advent also reminds us to work actively towards justice and literal peace, for as St. Teresa of Calcutta said, if you want peace, work for justice.
During Advent we are called…
• To let Mary help us to achieve inner Peace.
• To allow that Peace to permeate every aspect of our lives.
• To allow that Peace to bring us to surrender and acceptance of God’s Will.
• To choose Peace every day.
• And to bring Peace to those who need it in their lives.
It is this inner peace that allows Mary to say yes. It allows her to have an attitude of surrender and acceptance.
This Advent let us have that Peace to accept.
Some questions for personal reflection:
1. Is there peace in my life? If not, why not? What can I do to have peace in my life?
2. Do I find it hard to accept God’s Will in my life? Do I even think about that?
3. What can I do to in order to be able to say YES to God?
Let us Pray:
Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
(Prayer of Abandonment by St. Charles de Foucauld)
Come Light of the World, fill us with Joy to be the Voice that proclaims, to love and to worship and with the Peace to say yes, like Mary did!
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:firstname.lastname@example.org @deaconpedrogm