We are now very close to Christmas. The prophecy of Isaiah is now about to be fulfilled: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God is with us’. The Hebrew people were familiar with the prophecies which singled out the descendants of Jacob, through David, as bearers of the Messianic promises. But they could not imagine that the Messiah would be God himself made man. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman. And this woman, chosen and predestined from all eternity to be the mother of the Savior, had consecrated her virginity to God, renouncing the honor of counting the Messiah among her direct descendants.
We can obtain great benefits at this time by keeping close to Our Lady and showing our love for her.
Mary appears as the virgin Mother of the Messiah, she who will give all her love to Jesus, with an undivided heart, as the prototype of that self-surrender that Our Lord will ask from many souls. The Virgin gives her full consent to the divine will: Be it done unto me according to your word. From this moment on, she accepts her vocation and begins to put it into practice. Her vocation is to be Mother of God and Mother of men..
Unknown to anyone, the hub of human history and the centre of all mankind is now the little village of Nazareth. Here lives the woman most loved by God, she who is to be the most loved human being in the whole world, the most frequently invoked and called upon of all time. And we, in the intimacy of our heartfelt prayer, say: ‘Mother! Blessed art thou among all women.’
In the exercise of her Motherhood she was adorned with all the graces and privileges which made her a worthy abode for the Most High. God chose His Mother and put in her all his love and power. He did not permit there to be in her the least taint of sin, neither original nor personal. She was conceived Immaculate, without any stain at all. And He granted her so much grace that under God, it would be impossible to conceive of anyone greater than she: such was to be her state that no one, apart from God, could even begin to comprehend it. Her dignity is almost infinite.
All these privileges and graces were given to her so that she could carry out her vocation. As with each individual, her vocation was the central moment of her life: She was born to be the Mother of God, chosen by the Blessed Trinity from all eternity. She is our Mother too, a fact which, in this season, we want constantly to keep in mind.
Our vocation and corresponding to it
For each one of us, our vocation is the central theme of our lives. It is the axis around which everything else turns. Everything, or almost everything, depends on our knowing and carrying out what God asks of us. To follow and to love one’s own vocation is the most important and joyfully fulfilling thing in life. But in spite of its being the key that opens the door to happiness, there are many who do not want to know what their vocation is. They prefer to do what pleases them, to do their own will instead of God’s will, to remain in a state of culpable ignorance instead of seeking in all sincerity the road that will lead them to happiness and enable them to reach heaven in safety as well as to bring this same joy to many others.
Our Lord calls every one of us by our own name, today as much as ever. He needs us, it seems. Furthermore He calls all of us to a holy vocation, a vocation to follow him in a new life whose secret He alone possesses: if any man would come after me … Through Baptism we have all received a vocation to seek God in the fullness of love. For the ordinary life of man among his fellows is not something dull and uninteresting. It is there, in their ordinary lives, that God wants the vast majority of his children to achieve sanctity.
It is important to keep reminding ourselves that Jesus did not address himself to a privileged set of people; he came to reveal to us the universal love of God. God loves all men, and he wants all men to love him – everyone, whatever his personal situation, his social position, his work. Ordinary life is something of great value. All the ways of the earth can be an opportunity to meet Christ, who calls us to identify ourselves with him and carry out this divine mission – right where He finds us.
God calls us through what happens in the ordinary course of our day: through the sorrows and joys of the people we live with, through the human interests of all our colleagues and the things that go to make up our family life. He also calls us through the great problems, conflicts and challenges of each period of history, the portentous events that attract the interest and idealism of a large part of mankind.
The call of Our Lord urges us to a greater self-giving, for among other reasons, the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. And there are harvests which perish daily because there is no one to gather them in. Be it done unto me according to your word, says Our Lady. And we contemplate her, radiant with joy. As we raise up our minds and hearts in prayer, we can enquire of ourselves: Am I seeking God in my work or in my study, in my family, out in the street…in everything? Am I daring in doing apostolate? Does Our Lord want more of me?
Imitating Our Lady in her spirit of service to others
To God’s will, Our Lady has but one reaction: to love it. Proclaiming herself the handmaid of the Lord, she accepted without any reservation whatever. In the world of antiquity, in which slavery; the lot of the servant, was a common condition, this expression of Mary is seen in all its force and depth. The slave, one can say, did not have a will of his own, nor could he have any desire independent of his master’s . Our Lady agrees with the greatest joy and with all her heart to have no other wish than that of her Master and Lord. She gives herself to Him unreservedly, without condition.
We also, in imitation of Our Lady, do not want to have any other will, or any plans other than those of God. And we want this in the things that are obviously of transcendent importance for us, that is, in our vocation to sanctity and also in what immediately relates to it in the ordinary little things of every day, the mundane details of our work, our family life and our social relations
One of the mysteries of Advent is that on which we meditate in the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, namely, the Visitation. Let us focus in our consideration of it on one specific aspect of service to others which is part of our vocation: the order of charity.
This visit of our Mother to her cousin St Elizabeth presents one outstanding manifestation of the order of charity. We must love all men because they are all, or can be, sons of God. But we must love in the first place those who are closest to us, those with whom we have special ties, such as members of our families. This caritas must be shown by deeds, not only by affection or fondness. Let us think now of our dealings with our family, of the numberless opportunities that come our way of exercising, quite normally and naturally, our love and spirit of service.
We would like to live these days of Advent with the same spirit of service as our Mother had during her time of expectant waiting. Supported by the humble self giving of Mary, let us ask her (like good children) to help us, so that when Our Lord comes our hearts may, with complete generosity, be ready to receive his commands, his counsels and his suggestions.
Let us ask the blessed Virgin to make us contemplatives, to teach us to recognize the constant calls from God when he knocks at the door of our heart. Let us ask her now: Mother, you brought into the world Jesus, who reveals to us the love of our Father God. Help us to recognize Him in the midst of the cares of each day. Stir up our minds and our wills, so that we may be ready to listen to the voice of God, to the calls of grace.
Fr. Francis Fernandez