Fourth Sunday of Advent

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Jerome,

Pax Christi semper vobiscum!

I wonder what your thoughts were when you heard the story of the Annunciation at Mass today. Various artists have expressed their imagination of the scene artistically in paintings, songs, and poems. More often than not, the Annunciation scene is depicted with the expressive conversation of Mary and the Angel Gabriel that portrayed a feeling of fear, wonder, awe, and calm. For some of us who know from our readings of the biblical context of the event, we can agree why Mary would be fearful, wondering and enthralled by the message of the Angel. (Imagine being condemned for something that you did not do? In this case, a possible judgment of committing adultery, which was punishable by stoning according to the law of that time.) Mary’s disposition was unbelievably impressive. She knew how to trust in God.  She was daring and bold enough to assume a decision that requires a strong belief while the mystery was being unfolded gradually, not according to her time but according to God’s time. I still wonder why this girl of an incredibly young age was able to make a leap of faith without being overthrown by emotional fear and overwhelmed by the Angel’s message. Could this be the consequence of being “full of grace?”

It sounds very speculative to claim that Mary was frightful when she said “yes” upon hearing the message of an Angel. However, I cannot deny the reality that Mary was also a human being who was never deprived of any human feelings and emotions. On the other hand, she was able to discern her decision well by asking the right questions. “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” Gabriel gave her an answer that summarized the mystery of the Incarnation. Mary did not understand fully the entire event, yet she did not hesitate to be available. “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.” As she trusted in Gabriel’s message, she declared convincedly, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Where do we think her courage come from? Why was she able to embrace something that she did not fully understand? What made her capable of assuming a responsibility without future planning? She simply believed. She confronted her uncertainty by believing in God!

I speculate that Mary would not have this kind of faith and devotion if she did not have an encounter with God before. Her growth as a child was influenced by her parents Joachim and Anne. Mary’s encounter with the Divine was preceded by the experience of her parents. They provided her the opportunities of a divine experience. Someone offered her a possibility to meet God intimately. She was introduced to a spiritual encounter that provided her the tools of being courageous, certain, and being hopeful that God will unveil for her the mystery of His works. Have we also provided others with the same possibilities?

I think this is what we are challenged to as we come closer to the celebration of Christmas. Should we be more reflective on the mysteries that we often set aside due to other priorities that take us away from the real meaning of the season? In the end, can we also make an affirmation that we have encountered God and able to claim our spiritual intimacy with the Father? Under what circumstances have we met the Lord so far?  The mystery of Christmas remains to be unfolded as we prepare for the birth of the Divine Infant that was already born before we were born. So, our encounter with Him is rather ironic because before we meet Him, He has already encountered us. The point is, how are we going to make that encounter brimming with insights and experiences that are life giving and life sustaining?

Christmas is our invitation to a leap of faith that is similar to that of the Blessed Mother. To be in charge of our future is needful, but the resignation of our spirit to God is what makes our life more meaningful. Our confidence in God should be our driving force towards the fulfillment of all that we aim beyond.  Christmas is our assurance that our fear is overcome by our willingness to allow God to find us by His presence. Christmas is our Good News that amid life’s chaos and confusion, our God continues to establish order according to the law of His love. Yes, Christmas is about Christ who chose to be one with us in everything but sin, so that all of us may be like Him.

I will see you on Christmas Day. I wish to celebrate the great Solemnity with all of you.

Sincerely in Christ and Mary,