By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ (http://rcsocialjusticett.org & Director, CREDI
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation (Lk 1:26–38). Tomorrow we will celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus. Angel Gabriel’s initial greeting to Mary left her “deeply disturbed”. She did not understand what he meant when he said: “Rejoice, highly favoured! The Lord is with you”. He continued: “Mary, do not be afraid, you have won God’s favour…. Listen! you are to conceive and bear a son and you must name him Jesus….and his reign will have no end.” He later tells her that her old cousin, Elizabeth, whom people called “barren”, was six months pregnant.
Mary’s faith was strong. She believed the angel’s words that “nothing is impossible to God”. God has a plan for all of us. Are we as open to His plan as Mary was? Her humble, unreserved “Yes”; her fiat to His plan is reflected in her words to the angel: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me.” She submits/surrenders herself to His will totally and without further ado because of her belief. How strong is our faith?
In Pope Francis’ reflection on the Annunciation in March 2017, he said: “God continues to look for allies, he continues to seek men and women capable of believing…God continues to walk our neighbourhoods and our streets, he pushes in each place in search of hearts capable of listening to his invitation and making it become flesh here and now… the Lord continues to seek hearts like that of Mary, disposed to believe even in very extraordinary conditions…
“Just like he did with Mary, God also takes the initiative in our lives, inserting himself into our daily struggles, anxieties and desires…it’s precisely in the daily routine of our lives that we receive the most beautiful announcement we can hear: ‘Rejoice, the Lord is with you!’ However, despite the joy of hearing this annunciation, we can also be distracted by the ‘speculation’ of our times, asking like Mary, ‘how will this be?’ he said” (CNA).
During this Holy Season, let us find some time to ask ourselves: “How can I deepen my spirituality so that I will truly be open to listen to what God wants me to do with my life?” Authentic discipleship requires us to build our relationship with Christ daily. To do so we must be prepared to listen to what He is telling us and to act on His message to us.
On October 8, 2016, Pope Francis stressed: “‘it’s not enough simply to listen. While this is the first step, it must be followed by concrete action. The disciple truly puts his life at the service of the Gospel.’ He reminded us that Mary was not only Christ’s mother, but also his obedient disciple and a model of concrete service to others. ‘Throughout her life, Mary did everything that the Church is asked to do in perennial memory of Christ.’ With her faith, ‘we learn to open our hearts to obey God; in her self-denial, we see the importance of tending to the needs of others; in her tears, we find the strength to console those experiencing pain.’…Mary guides us toward the path we are called to take ‘in order to be true disciples of Jesus.” (https://cruxnow.com).
Prayer helps us to stay on the right path. Pope Francis is said to be dedicated to Mary and prays the rosary three times a day. I agree with him when he said recently that, for theological clarity, there is a need to change the words in the Lord’s Prayer that asks, “Lead us not into temptation”. This translation of the Greek prayer can be misleading.
As the UK Guardian reported, Pope Francis believes “the wording should be altered to better reflect that it was not God who led humans to sin. It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation…I am the one who falls; it’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen. A father doesn’t do that, a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation, that’s his department.”
He highlighted that the Catholic Church in France had adapted the prayer, and uses the phrase ‘do not let us fall into temptation’ instead. He suggested wording along the lines of, “Do not let us fall into temptation.” It has been noted, though, that any change will take lengthy deliberations.
Have a blessed Christmas!