Fourth Sunday of Advent (2014)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
It has often occurred to me as I reflect on my own life, now that some 90 years of it passed, that if I could have known beforehand how my life and vocation would develop, I might well have been too frightened to make certain decisions. Perhaps it is just as well that I did not have foresight because I am not a particularly heroic sort of person. Nonetheless, I did make certain critical choices at certain points and amazingly they turned out to be the kind that continued to send me in the direction I had chosen.
I wonder if that often is the way married people feel as they celebrate their 50th anniversary. They too made a certain decision along the way, the most important, of course, being to spend their days together as husband and wife. Nonetheless, during those long years together, as they reflect, they may occasionally have wondered how it would all turn out. Would they have decided to forge on ahead had they known what they know now? It is all a great mystery and we will probably never be sure.
When I read the scriptures for this 4th Sunday of Advent, it seems to me that those same thoughts must have been running through the mind of Mary, the young Palestinian virgin betrothed to a young Palestinian man named Joseph. At a certain moment before they were married, Mary experienced this strange sacred prediction that she would soon become pregnant. This was a great shock to her, of course, because of the great risk of public dishonor. Not only that, the mysterious messenger predicted that she would be the mother of a son who would follow in the historic ancestral line of the great king David. Can one imagine any more shocking prediction than that? Little did she realize that if she said yes to this invitation, it would change the whole course of her life, which, of course, it did. Nonetheless, she did reply “yes, I am willing to do whatever all this involves.”
And, once again, here is the great mystery: Mary did not have any idea of what the future would be and yet she was willing to risk whatever lay ahead.
What do you suppose was going through her mind the day she and the others in the family came out to where her Son was preaching, worried to death that he was putting himself in mortal danger with the Roman and temple authorities. Perhaps it might have seemed to Mary that her son had become an extremist, a political radical. She obviously knew the power of the state and the temple to simply wipe out her son once and for all.
Moreover, what did she think when Jesus told her that his family had now expanded to include all those who listened to the word of God and kept it.
One can only imagine today what mothers in Syria or those in Gaza or the West Bank must think when their son declares that he intends to become a suicide bomber. Think about that!
Of course, by that time Mary was already clearly aware what her initial “yes” meant. There was no turning around. The gospels tell us that she stood near the cross when her Son was being crucified; she never gave up on this Son of her’ whose life had became such a puzzle, such a mystery to her.
In some ways Mary’s life resembles that of many mothers and fathers today: think of the parents who answer the door of their home and are told that their son has been shot in gang-violence. Think also of the parents who answer the door to find a military officer who tells them that their son has been killed in Iraq.
All one can say in those instances is that the parents could never have imagined such a tragedy happening to them when they first married. Nonetheless, they remained peaceful about it, knowing that they had done all they could to care for this son of theirs.
Mysteriously, we come to understand our own life better hindsight than foresight. In the end, as Saint Paul writes, “we live by faith not by sight.”
The scriptures: 2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8b, 12, 14a, 16 • Romans 16: 25-27 • Luke 1: 36-38
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: Fourth Sunday of Advent