So we come to the core period of Advent, the nervousness from what we have reflected on at the beginning of this season (the eschaton and the second coming) should now be waning as we see with the coming celebration of the Nativity how much God desires us to succeed. He came among us to help us get home. We now focus intensely on the gift of Christ – as we should.
But this weekend Holy Mother Church asks to look at the other side of this gift from God – our gift back to Him. Today’s Gospel scene is one which Pope Francis has talked about a lot – it is a foundational reading in his spirituality and he desires it to be ours as well. Why? Because so does God.
Frequently Pope Francis has talked about the first thing that Mary did after submitting to the will of God; she goes in haste to help others. It is a call to Christians for Christian action, especially Catholics, who might have the tendency to celebrate feasts of the church and not put them to action.
Christ teaches that the greatest commandments are Love God and Love your neighbor – this calls for action – this calls us to go in haste to others. So, I ask myself, and you; how are we doing with our gift back to God? I for one need to be better – my gift back to God is very, very, anemic.
Of course this gift of action to God and others is full of uncertainty and doubt. It is fraught with various forms of persecution from being ignored and marginalized, to being derided or rejected, all the way to being attacked and yes, even possibly martyred.
But so it was with Mary; she knew that her journey and her action would be difficult – right from the beginning. Going in haste to anywhere in Judea was not like driving a long distance today – it was dangerous and life threatening – but she did it. Advent reminds us that she wasn’t alone, Christ was with her; and as He was in her – she was brave in Him.
So, how are we doing with our gift back to God?
Once again, this past year we have seen many attacks on the personal liberty of religion – and some have shown us great acts of Christian action; worthy gifts back to our Lady and Lord. Here is one that epitomizes heroism with and for God; an example of gifting back to God worthy of His (and Mary’s) gift to us:
At Brandon High School, in Mississippi, the marching band was ordered off the field by their school board because they performed ‘How Great Thou Art’ at halftime in violation of a federal court order. Todd Starnes from foxnews.com writes what happened next:
‘Something must be done to right this wrong, people said. A message had to be sent to the likes of Judge Reeves. Locals gathered in coffee shops and garages to devise their plan.
And what they did — would become known as the musical shot heard around the world. During halftime of Friday night’s game – a lone voice began to sing the forbidden song. “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,” the singer sang.
Brittany Mann was there and she witnessed the entire moment of defiance. “We were just sitting there and then one by one people started to stand,” she told me. “At first, it started out as a hum but the sound got louder and louder.” She said it was a “truly incredible” moment to watch hundreds of people singing together in the stadium.’
This isn’t a faraway issue; ask the football team at Naperville Central – since they too are under legal attack for quietly praying as a group. So, how are we doing with our gift back to God?
Friends, what is our story?
- Are we intimidated by the social environment?
- Do we sit back in the shadows and wish it were otherwise?
- Do we allow the children of our towns who proclaim Christ publically to do it alone?
- Do we trust in the Lord and travel with Him?
- Do we, like Mary, go in haste to bring her son to others?
- Do we hold our heads high in the Lord to those in our communities who look at us with derision and threatening distaste?
- Do we support those in our communities, especially our children, who proclaim Christ publically? Do we stand with them and proclaim our faith?
Brothers and sisters, we celebrate the birth of our Lord in five days. We rejoice in the great gift of God made man. We rejoice that our redeemer was born to walk among us and offer Himself for us.
But we also, celebrate another gift, that greatest of human action – ‘fiat’! Mary’s yes that allowed us to rejoice. How will we thank her? By the gifts of empty words, shallow prayers and wistful wishes; or will we follow up her example, make her actions our own and also go in haste to those who need Christ in their lives. Will we celebrate by being happy and inspired for a day, only to have the effects fade; or will we follow her and constantly hold our heads high in Christ in public and endure what she endured with her Son? Let’s give her and Him thanks for their gifts by bearing the cross of discipleship all the way to Calvary and beyond.
Let’s make our gift to Christ, and His mother, as meaningful as theirs is to us.
 Matt 22:36-40
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (RSV)