1. Introductory prayer for the 4th Advent Sunday – the Birth of Jesus Christ in the Bible – Luke 1:26-38
I pause and slowly calm myself. I make the sign of the cross, becoming more deeply aware of God’s presence within me and in everything that surrounds me. I ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the gift of being moved by God’s word, which I am now allowed to read, listen to, ponder, and allow it to shape Christ within me (Gal 4:19), that I may become merciful, just as the heavenly Father is merciful (Lk 6:36). I ask for this in my own words or by using the following:
“Please grant me the grace to be able to listen from the outside and from within. From the outside, the words I read; from within, the feelings and impulses that awaken within me. Slowly, I begin to read the passage from the Gospel. Word by word. Line by line. I gaze at the one who is speaking to me.”
2. Reading – Listening: 4th Advent Sunday – the Birth of Jesus Christ in the Bible – Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
3. Thoughts on the Gospel: 4th Advent Sunday – the Birth of Jesus Christ in the Bible – Luke 1:26-38 – Meaning and Commentary
Mary was in the sixth month of her ‘today.’ Just as for her, it is for us. There exists a unique today, a time of invitation to enter into God’s plan for us. This present day is not an isolated time; it’s connected to other times and the times of others. Each is unique and irreplaceable, a day to be placed alongside others until God’s word is fulfilled.
The Gospel words ‘he entered’ can be understood in two ways: he entered her house or he entered her being. So did Mary see the angel or not? She saw and heard. The mysteries of human encounters with God cannot be explained. It happens, and that’s all.
It’s an encounter that leaves a mark, and therein lies the greatness of the event. She, full of grace, has the eyes of the spirit, hence there’s only one way of spiritual seeing for her: that transparent gaze of a pure heart that can behold God and not perish.
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Mary’s agitation was entirely justified. The way she sees herself doesn’t allow her to distance herself from others, hence she’s unaware of being full of grace. It’s natural for her, in her fidelity, to always and everywhere faithfully do good, loyal to that inner attraction lifting her to higher realms.
Mary’s fear is the amazement of all children surprised to be the object of someone important’s attention. And if that someone is God, how immense then is this fear? So immense that one feels their complete smallness and considers everything as an utterly gratuitous gift of love.
When God approaches a human to call them to participate in His thoughts of salvation, He does it entirely. What remains unclear is the manner of human cooperation, as the person remains free in fulfilling God’s thoughts.
Mary asked the angel how God’s will would be fulfilled. She didn’t doubt God. She knew that the word spoken by God is always mighty and that what He says happens. Her concern was ‘how’ and what she was called to become. She was convinced that God doesn’t revoke the plans of His children drawn from their most genuine desires, yet she didn’t know how it would happen. So she simply asked to know what to do to be in line with the plan of love of God the Father. Elizabeth’s experience, which the angel told Mary, was an opportunity for her to connect her experience with hers.
Mary’s response ‘behold…’ is of paramount importance. It means ‘Here I am.’ Her focus on the Word announced to her was so intense that she could perceive herself as a ‘handmaid,’ a useful instrument in fulfilling the Father’s will. ‘Let it be done to me according to your word!’ This is nothing like a passive ‘yes.’ It’s a ‘yes’ from a person aware of the greatness of being involved in God’s plan, such a profound ‘yes’ that in human gestures, it reveals the face of God.”
4. Meditation – Thinking
I am now reflecting on the heard Word of God. I am looking at Jesus and other individuals in the passage. I am observing how the Word of God touches my thoughts and feelings, how it reveals God to me and me to myself and others in Him. The following thoughts or questions can also be helpful:
- ‘Do not be afraid!’ What do these words aim to enable within me?
- ‘With God, nothing is impossible!’ ‘Let it be done to me according to your word!’ If I embrace these words as my own, how does it influence my life and actions?”
5. Personal Prayer
In the next moments of silence, I talk about this with Jesus. I tell him what I think, what I feel, what I want. I ask him for the grace that I need for … (make your conversation with God).
6. Contemplation – Quiet moment with God
I allow everything within me to fall silent. I am simply present in God, just as He is present in me. Perhaps from this silence and stillness, I will sense even more of God’s address and His desire for me to be always with Him and to do everything with Him and in Him…
When I enter into a personal relationship with God, He transforms me, makes me more loving, and inspires me to take concrete action…
8. Prayer at the end
“Heavenly Father, thank you for Mary, for her ability to accept Your plan of love and wholeheartedly say, ‘Let it be done to me according to your word!’ Thank you for helping me enter into this disposition through prayer. Help me embody it every day and, together with Your Son, bring Your kingdom into today’s world and time.”
9. Review of my prayer meditation or reflection
This is the time when I became aware of and articulate what was happening within me during prayer. The following questions can assist me in reflection:
- What was happening during prayer? What feelings and thoughts could I discern within myself?
- What did I learn about God, His relationship with me and others, and my own relationship with Him and others?
- How did I conclude my prayer? What did I receive in it for my everyday life?
- In the end, I can jot down my insights, discoveries, and realizations. I also note where I encountered difficulties, as these can be valuable in understanding God’s relationship with me and my relationship with Him. They can also help me find a more suitable way of praying. Then, I express gratitude to the triune God for everything.
Lectio Divina meditations are published and adapted with permission from the Jesuits home – ignacijevdom.si
Text from the Bible – New International Version (NIV)