Lectionary Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B

Lectionary Readings: 2 Sam 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16 / Ps 89 / Rom 16:25-27 / Lk 1:26-38

As we proceed into the last days of the Advent Season, especially during Masses from December 17 to December 24 before the Eve of the Nativity of the Lord, in a period commonly known as “Late Advent Weekdays,” the Lectionary readings provide for us a better background of what is to come in the Nativity Story. On December 17, we read from the gospel of Matthew of the genealogy of Jesus… you remember right? That long list of names. Some might see it as the most pointless gospel out of probably all the gospels because all it is is a list of names. However, we can draw from it this main point: Jesus was born in a family who had ancestors with fairly “interesting” histories. While we see king and rulers, we also see murderers and unwise people in the genealogy. On a larger scale, Jesus was born as any human being would, taking on fully human form to the point that he was born and descended from a family with people of all sorts of backgrounds.

The past two days, we read of two stories of the annunciation, that of the annunciation of Joseph (December 18), and the annunciation of Zechariah (December 19). Today, we read of the third annunciation story, that of Mary, probably the most well known of the three annunciation stories preceding the Nativity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Sometimes, I think that the story is just over read and we read through it out of routine. More so, one of the most common prayers, the Hail Mary also called The Angelic Salutation and thus the words, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” (cf. Lk 1:28) just comes out of our mouths out of routine, out of repetition. However, the story of the annunciation is just so much more than something we repeat over and over again in the Hail Mary, or in this gospel of the annunciation which we make elementary Catholic children re-tell the story: an angel named Gabriel comes down tells Mary that she will have a son named Jesus… I don’t think the story is that simple.

The story of the annunciation must be seen in the bigger picture of the story of salvation. The Fiat of Mary, her surrender to God, “Here am I , the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your,” (Lk 1:38) was a ‘yes’ to Him, that in a sense, reverted Eve’s choosing of sin (cf. Gen 3). Jesus’ ‘yes’ to the Father evident throughout His life, reverted Adam’s choosing of sin. Adam and Eve freely chose sin, while Jesus and Mary freely chose God. Thus, Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica referenced both Jesus and Mary as the “new Adam, new Eve,” respectively.

What other options were there for man after the fall in Genesis? We have an almighty God who could have said, “too bad… off to eternal damnation.” This could be reasonable because as evident in not only in the story of the fall in Genesis, we also see it all throughout Jesus’ family tree. For example, King David was a murderer, King Solomon had many wives… a fair bit of sin just in Jesus’ genealogy alone. Yet, even in the midst of all that sin, all those offenses against God, God did not leave His people but with a merciful heart calls His children back to Himself. The almighty and merciful God right from the fall of man, gave the protoevangelium, the first promises of the Saviour (cf. Gen 3:15). That is why the people and prophets from of old such as Isaiah whom we have been reading throughout Advent, kept mentioning and waiting from generation to generation – they longed for this Saviour, this Messiah. Mary’s Fiat set this promise into motion.

The promise was unfolding, but there was still a problem – people did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, they thought this “Messiah” would come in all grandeur and glory because for the Israrelites, that was their perception of God. Yet, the God whom we worship is one who truly wants to be “Emmanuel – God is with us,” and thus He chose to be born of the womb of a woman which was the pure tabernacle in which He dwelt until the time came for Him to be born on that day we now celebrate as Christmas. Later on, after three years of public ministry, He freely offered Himself for humanity, to save all from eternal damnation with His death and resurrection. Jesus really got His “hands dirty” from His ancestry, His birth and His death because in His life, we are able to see how much God wants to share in our humanity.

We must not forget this fact because Mary’s Fiat and Jesus’ willingness to die for us all on the cross is essential to Christianity because without this, salvation’s story would not be complete. The next time we recite the Hail Mary, let us remember that it was through her fiat on that day of the annunciation, she paved the way for God to work His plans for all of humanity, and through the Our Father that Jesus taught us, we should be reminded that just as Jesus did the will of the Father, we too must like Jesus and Mary be obedient to the Father, to God’s will, even if they do not line up with our agenda because at the end of the day, God wants nothing but good for us, because God Hinmself, is an almighty, merciful and good.

About Vincent Pham

Vincent is a humanities student of the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science. He hopes to pursue a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Philosophy.
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