SPEAK LORD, YOUR SERVANTS ARE LISTENING.
As we approach Christmas, the pace of life tends to speed up, as the commercial world accelerates us into spending another few hundred $$$’s. Our bodies and minds are crying out for a break from everything…… and the Advent Liturgy repeats the message: – Let nothing hinder us from receiving Christ with joy……..4th Advent Candle is lit…The Angels Candle.
Today’s Gospel sets the scene for the birth of Jesus. Mary was to be married to Joseph. In the meantime, the angel had appeared to Mary, she had said her YES to God. Mary was wrapped in mystery; in something she humbly accepted as being from God, and something she could not totally understand. Her role, the role of the humble servant, was to obey, and leave it to God to take care of the details. I think that it is important at this stage for us to unravel the true meaning of obedience as seen in Sacred Scripture. Obedience comes from the Latin word obedientia, which, literally means, “To listen, attend” or in a more picturesque way of explanation: “to hold one’s ear against”, like that of a Doctor listening to a patient’s heartbeat through a stethoscope. This kind of listening is often attributed to that of a Prophet. It is listening with the whole body and mind, when one really wants to know what to do, or what road to take. It is also an attention to the inner stirrings of the Holy Spirit within the Temple of our being…within that stillness we can gaze attentively into the signs and words of God addressed to us…not so much our words to God, but God’s words to us: “ Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” (1Samuel 3:9)
Let us get closer to the great mystery that Mary was faced with….’ Do not be afraid’ the Angel said, “you have won God’s favour.’ Mary knew her place before God; she belonged to a group of people known as ‘the poor of the Lord God’ or ‘ the faithful few’ who longed to see God’s saving hand rescuing His people once again, like back in the days of old in Egypt and Babylon. Mary embodied true humility before God, and she nurtured that extraordinary gift of spiritual poverty, which moved her to thirst and hunger for God. Here we see the fundamental ingredients for real Scriptural listening.
This poverty of spirit and humility, as lived in Mary’s life is not only a very desirable characteristic for us to aspire to; it should be the flavour of our day to day life! However, its opposite often blurs our vision and desire, in acquiring such a vital spiritual quality. This in many ways is caused by all the NOISE in our lives….T.V, Mobile phones, ipads, Tablets, car alarms, and Police, Fire or Ambulance Sirens and huge Dreamliner Aircraft flying above our homes! Let me have some peace and quiet, I need ‘silence’…..Often we say that we can’t hear ourselves think! Human nature needs SILENCE to listen holistically….sure that is the meaning of true OBEDIENCE!
The opposite of poverty of spirit and humility is pride! This can be so destructive to self and others, and its expressions are obnoxious: arrogance, haughtiness, aloofness, disdain, sarcasm, negativity etc. etc. In the case of Mary and Joseph, they did not actually do anything. They said their YES, and left the doing to God. Here we can also see the ‘flip side’ and implication of their YES… namely not wanting or desiring to be in control of the present or the future. Their poverty of spirit enabled them to be free and open to the surprises that God had in store for them.
As we are virtually on the ‘Eve’ of Christmas, perhaps our desire could well be the renewed development of our personal and community obedience to God, and thus be tuned into His nourishing Word through our poverty of spirit. ‘God’s greatest gifts fall into the hearts that are empty of self’. (St. John of the Cross)
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks. Compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands, with which He Blesses all the world.
PRAYER BEFORE HOLY COMMUNION.
As we break this one loaf into many pieces, and share this cup, we bless the God who promises all things to those who expectantly wait for his appearance.
He comes to us now as the Bread of life and the cup of salvation. He invites us to see the ‘God-is-with-us’ in the faces of our brothers and sisters.
Fr Kevin Walsh