Homily – 4th Sunday of Advent

A painting of the Annunciation

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B

When I read this gospel a few days ago, I remembered one funny story that happened shortly after my ordination in my first parish when I was a newly ordained priest. I remembered one homily for children that I gave during Advent. It was exactly the fourth Sunday of Advent and – like today – I read the same gospel of the Annunciation. After I finished reading and closed the book, I went over to the children with the microphone to ask them some questions about the gospel, just to make sure that everyone was really listening carefully to God’s Word. The first question I asked seemed very easy to me: Who is the main character of today’s gospel? Or: Who – in today’s gospel – visited Mary? At that point, there was absolute silence in the church, which meant that no one knew the answer to my question. So, I decided to help the kids and gave them some tips. I asked them again: Who visited Mary in today’s Gospel? This someone was white and had white feathers on. To my surprise, no one could answer my question, so I decided to try asking them again with another clue. Who visited Mary in today’s Gospel? This someone came from a long way and had big wings. After a moment of silence, one little boy raised his hand and said it very loudly: I know – if he was white, came from a long way and had big wings – it had to be a stork that brings babies to people!!! Of course, at this point, everyone in the church started laughing because only a child could come up with such an original and funny answer.

In today’s gospel, we have heard one of the most beautiful scenes from the gospel of Saint Luke, which we call the Annunciation. I think that each of us knows who the main protagonist of this scene is, because we know this amazing dialogue between Mary and the Angel, which – as we know – changed the course of world history. One of the prayers that we say regularly in our church reminds us of this significant encounter between Mary and the Angel Gabriel. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. / Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word. / And the Word was made flesh. And dwelt among us.

Today, a few days before Christmas, the Church invites us to once again look at Mary, at her humility and at her beautiful attitude of trust in God. Perhaps we need this beautiful example and motivation, especially now, a few days before Christmas. Perhaps, like Mary, we too sometimes have to face many difficult decisions regarding our studies, work, marriage, family, becoming a priest or religious sister. Maybe we are afraid at times to make quick decisions, and maybe we need time to think it over or ask for advice because we realize that our future, our happiness and many other things depend on all the decisions we are making right now.

I remember that in my life I had to face many doubts and dilemmas and I asked God many times the same question that Mary asked: How will this happen? God, do you really want me to become a priest, since you have many better candidates? Are you sure that this is the right way of life and the right direction that I should follow? Why are you changing my own life plans that I have been thinking about for a long time? What will my parents, family and friends think of me if I became a priest? But now when I look back, I have the impression that it was not the only “Annunciation” in my life when God called me to become a priest, because after a few years, new questions, doubts and dilemmas appeared in my heart and in my mind: God, do you really want me to serve you right here in England, so far away from my family and many other people I love? Do you really want me to preach the Gospel in a language I still need to learn and improve? Are you sure I’m in the right place and are you sure that everything that happens in my life makes sense? And although I have never seen or met an Angel Gabriel or any other angel in my life, I can say that many times I have experienced something similar to what Mary experienced in today’s gospel: doubts, fears and difficult questions about my future. I think that today – when I look at my life in retrospect – I can say exactly what the Angel Gabriel said to Mary, that nothing is impossible for God. And what today’s gospel encourages me and all of us to do is, first of all, to trust God even if many things in our lives seem to be incomprehensible and senseless.

Holy Mary Mother of God, we are waiting with you for the birth of your Son. Be our best example of how to trust and how to respond to God in obedience and humility: “Let what you have said be done to me”. Amen.

 Fr Gregory