In this beautiful homily for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C, Father Hanly looks at Mary’s decision to agree to be the Mother of the Lord.

Readings for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C

  • First Reading: Micah 5:1-4
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
  • Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10
  • Gospel: Luke 1:39-45


Written Homily

We know that Christmas is coming, because Mary goes in search of Elizabeth. And we know that what is the next great event in the history of that little family is they both will give birth. Two children: one, John the Baptist, and the other one, of course, Jesus the Messiah.

It is almost Christmas, and a child is about to be born to us. The Child will be the Son of Mary and the Son of God. He will be named Jesus and will be the gift of a loving Father offered to us on this first Christmas Day.

We reach out then with both hands and take this most precious gift into our own world, into our families, into our hearts, into our lives, with great gratitude, love and thanksgiving to God himself.

As the carol goes:

Hark now hear the angels sing
A new king born today.
And man will live forever more,
Because of Christmas Day

It has often puzzled me that God should choose the weak and needy, the helpless and poor, the day-to-day-ordinary people of this world, to effect his will, to be the instruments of his concern for a world that hungers for his love, often without even realizing it.

This indeed is a great mystery. It is also God’s way of telling us how much he values our lives, lives that we ourselves often take for granted, and we often feel unworthy of such honor and attention that God himself should give us his only Son, to be our companion on the road of life.

Mary, then, becomes our Mother and our model. The unlettered, teenaged girl-child has been chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah, the Christ, savior of the world.

Mary is chosen, but not overjoyed. In fact, she is frightened and shrinks back from the Angel’s words. She knows her limitations, and she also knows that to say “yes” to his request her whole life will be changed, so much so that there will be no room left to have a life of her own. She has been asked to give herself totally and completely for the little child of Bethlehem.

And yet she answers the Angel’s request in all humility, driving back her fears with a childlike faith in God: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

And so it happens that the child takes shape in Mary’s womb. And wonder of wonders, the child to be born will be flesh of Mary’s flesh, blood of her blood. He will see with Mary’s eyes, touch with her hands, and love with her heart, and even his pains and sorrows, his laughter and tears, will flow from Mary’s eyes and Mary’s heart. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” And the Child’s name is Jesus.

Thirty years later, the words of Jesus to his Father from the cross: “Father, not mine, but thy will be done,” will echo his Mother’s reply to the Angel this day: “Let it be done to me according to thy word.” Like Mother, like Son!

Mary’s life once vowed and given will never be taken back. Mary’s faith and trust in God has made the incarnation possible. God was asking her to surrender her life in love. And Mary gave it and continues to give it, to you and to me, that we might pass it on to one another.

Let this Christmas, then, touch your hearts, minds and souls.

God, our Father, asks only this of us: To love each other as he has loved us and continues to love us as we continue to love him.

And this is what can change the world.

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