Do not be afraid
Do you think the Blessed Virgin Mary had stress in her life? Mary is about fifteen when the Archangel Gabriel greeted her, “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you.” (For all quotes see Lk. 1:26-45) Mary was “troubled” by this greeting, but she surrenders her life to God and follows him in faith.
Mary is indeed “full of grace”, for she always had God’s divine life filling her soul. The Greek word to describe this unique relationship with God is “kecharitomene” (kay-caree-toe-may-nay), which means that Mary’s soul was immediately and always full of grace; and since “full of grace”, there is no room for sin. This is why we believe that Mary was immaculately conceived and sinless.
God created Mary free from Original Sin and kept her free from all personal sin since she freely cooperated with that grace, and so we celebrate Mary’s Im-maculate Conception every December 8th. Although Mary was immaculately conceived she still had normal emotions of feeling “troubled.”
The angel replied, “Do not be afraid, Mary…The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” This is the virginal conception of Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary by God.
Mary responds by surrendering her life and feelings to God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according your word.” (Lk. Mary teaches us to give our life and emotions, positive or negative, to God, trusting in his loving care. She then makes haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
We believe that the baby Jesus in the womb of Mary is truly God and truly a human being. And when Mary greets Elizabeth, the baby in the womb of Elizabeth leaps for joy. We believe that Jesus was already doing his divine work by sanctifying the baby – John the Baptist – in the womb of Elizabeth.
Then the Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth, who cries out, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does it happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
God reveals to Elizabeth what Mary believed at the annunciation: that Mary’s baby Jesus is truly the “Lord”, the Son of God who created the universe and has now come to dwell with us, fulfilling all the prophecies of the Old Testament.
This is good news, and we see Elizabeth offer her life and stress to God by giving praise to him that the Lord Jesus and his Mother, Mary, had come to visit her. St. Elizabeth and Mary, the Mother of God, take steps of faith together, watching their sons’ mission unfold before their prayerful hearts and eyes, amid amazing love, stress, sorrow, death and ultimate joy.
Although we do not know the details of our future life, we trust that the Lord Jesus, Mary and Holy Mother Church will help us celebrate Christ’s birth, as well as prepare us for Jesus’ second coming in glory. We know for certain that, despite our varied emotions, we are being saved when we sincerely con-fess our mortal sins to Christ in Confession, and then receive him worthily as a pure, divine gift in the Holy Eucharist which Holy Mother Church has pre-pared for us.
In this last week of Advent of proximate preparation, we listen to God speak to us through the Angel: “Do not be afraid,” and through Elizabeth: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” God’s saving grace in the sacraments are fulfilled for us who, with Mary, believe and follow the Lord Jesus within his Catholic Church.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe