Fourth Week of Advent 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16
Psalm 88(89):2-5, 27, 29
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “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 holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
I am the handmaid of the Lord. LK 1:38
From early on, we learn that there are two kinds of people: the selfish and the selfless. Alarmed by this neat division, we try our best to think, not of ourselves, but only of others. Unfortunately though, the task proves impossible.
Your sixth-grade teacher asks for help, and you volunteer, only to wonder, “Did I just do that for the candy reward?” The chaplain asks you to run a mission trip, and you agree, only to worry, “Did I just want to appear holy?”
The experience of our own mixed motivations is maddening. Despite our best efforts, we continue to prove desperately self-absorbed. And, try as we may, we cannot think ourselves out of the conundrum.
Consider then, the response of the Blessed Mother. The Lord asks of her a great generosity. At first she seems taken aback: “She was deeply disturbed by these words.” But rather than delay with thoughts of selfish and selfless, she simply turns to him. In search of clarity, she thinks of God.
We will probably have mixed motivations for some time yet. The good news is that it doesn’t matter terribly much. What matters is God, who makes his grace to shine on selfish and selfless alike. If he asks great things of you, as he did of Mary, it may give you pause: “Is this prideful, vainglorious, ambitious?” Perhaps. But who cares? In the end, it remains for us only to say, “Let it be done to me.” He’ll take care of the rest.
Lord Jesus Christ, whether selfish or selfless, I am yours. Give me to respond generously to your own generous self-offering. Amen.
FR GREGORY PINE OP
‘Adore’ Advent Reflections