Kuwait City, 21 December 2014
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
Throughout the Advent season we have been joyfully preparing ourselves for the arrival of the Lord. Indeed, his arrival is imminent, because Christmas is just a few days away. Yet the Lord is constantly coming towards us, for in each celebration of the Eucharist we receive him in his word and sacrament. The Lord also comes to us when we are in prayer, in those precious moments of silence when we are searching for God and his grace. A lot of silence is required in order to hear the quiet voice of God, but unfortunately, our modern way of living leaves us very little time and opportunities for this type of silent prayer. For those of you who do make the effort to turn off your television, radio, stereo, computer, cell-phone, Ipod, Ipad, in order to listen to the Lord speaking to your heart as you read Sacred Scripture or pray in silence, you can attest to the fact that these are moments of great peace and grace.
The Lord also comes to us through his chosen people, his messengers and faithful servants. We saw earlier how the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist prepared the people of Israel for the arrival of the Messiah. Today we heard how Mary was chosen by God to become the Mother of Jesus. This came about thanks to her readiness to listen to and receive the word of God and to act upon it. The angel of the Lord had just greeted her with the words Hail full of grace! The Lord is with you.
The angel began with Hail! In other words: Rejoice! Be happy! You who are so healthy, so spiritually well, immaculate in heart! God has his plans for mankind, and amongst all the women in the world he has chosen you for a special vocation – to become the Mother of God and thereby provide great joy to multitudes of people of all generations. How often we forget that the main characteristic of Christianity is joy and inner happiness. The essence and the goal of Christianity is not to be found in the cross, in sadness, sufferings and death, but in joy, the resurrection and eternal youth. We too are called to bring joy into our world through our lives, the joy that we are in grace. Helping and making others happy also provides us with a great spiritual joy, especially if we are sincere and do not have ulterior motives.
The angel’s second word was: Full of grace. What a lovely and divine greeting! The angel was actually calling Mary by her true name, not ‘Grace’, which is a nice name for a woman, but Full of grace. Grace is the gift of God’s presence, his relation to man, his mercy and love. Mary was full of grace from the moment of her conception but she probably was not aware of this. This hidden grace was now to come out in order to bring forth its fruit which the angel announced to her. Hence, Mary’s real name is Full of grace, which the Lord has given her.
We too should be aware that God’s grace is also within us. It is at times hidden and unused until it is awakened by a certain temptation, suffering, question or calling. St. Paul was one who was aware of the workings of grace within him and he once wrote: By God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless (1 Cor 15:10). This is our Christian program: to cooperate with God’s offers, graces and plans which are always greater and better than our own. It is strange how sensitive we are to the little things people say about us and yet we can be so afraid or even ashamed to accept God’s plan for us and fulfill his will which manifests itself through the Church.
The third word of greeting was: The Lord is with you. This is almost a repetition of the previous greeting Full of grace. The person who is full of grace is the one with whom the Lord abides. The Lord is with us in his own special way. He was with Mary in the highest manner possible, for he chose her to become the mother of his Son.
The angel then goes on to brief Mary on God’s plan with her, which caused her even more confusion. The angel says to her: Do not be afraid Mary. Mary must have been extremely surprised and possibly worried by what the angel had to say to her, but the angel sought to comfort her with the words that appear so often in Holy Scripture: Do not be afraid. These same words are spoken to us. It is God speaking to us. Therefore, don’t be afraid of your weaknesses or limitations if God is calling you. Give yourself up to him. He will give you strength and courage, and you will be able to do many things with him who is your strength. God is counting on you now and he wants to fulfill his plan through you. Do not be afraid then of your vocation and what God asks of you, but rather rejoice! We should only be afraid of our pride, selfishness and self-contentment, and be afraid that we may not have responded to his grace the way we should have.
After explaining to her that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit, the final words of the angel Gabriel to Mary are nothing is impossible to God. Now is the time for faith, for trust in the promises of the Lord. Now the burden was on Mary to believe in what the angel had announced to her, even though it all seemed so surprising and humanly impossible. Mary then accepts the words of the angel by saying: I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. Here is where Mary freely accepts God’s plan and it is here where Mary expressed her faith in God and his word.
Nothing is impossible to God in our lives as well. All we have to do is to have faith, trust in his word and give ourselves up to him. He will take care of us in the best manner possible. Everything is possible to him if we let him take over in our lives. Yet even God cannot help us if we don’t want his help and we refuse his offer of love.
May the final words of Mary to the angel be guiding words for our lives as well: May it be done to me according to your word. As we approach Christmas let us prepare our hearts for the arrival of the Lord into our hearts with Mary’s words of faith and trust in God, and may they inspire us to greater charity and service in God’s Church!