A blessing to each other

    December 24, 2023
    Advent reflection day 22 graphic. Watercolor brush strokes of Christmas tree branches in white and pale green.

    Today’s gospel is the amazing pronouncement by Angel Gabriel to Mary of Nazareth that, even though she is a virgin, she is going to give birth to a son. Paul Woefel, a contemporary Nigerian artist, depicts the Annunciation with an African Mary in simple garb and Gabriel reverently before her. This is a humble Mary, bewildered by this stranger. Who is this visitor, and what does he want?

    In the gospel, Gabriel is ‘sent’ to Mary — not in a vision or a dream — to make seven grand pronouncements:

    The Lord is with you. You are highly favored. You will give birth to a son. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.

    “Deeply troubled,” Mary is aware that each pronouncement is loaded with meaning. Her whole life is about to take a dangerous turn.

    It’s not until Mary learns that her relative Elizabeth — barren and older — is also pregnant that she accepts Gabriel’s message. The assurance that another woman — someone she knows well and is going through a similar experience — would walk with her during this uncertain journey convinced Mary to believe and proclaim that with God all things are possible. The shared experience mattered more to Mary than Gabriel’s grand promises.

    This is also a story of the Incarnation. God shares our human experiences and journeys with us in our lives. Many people in our world are facing incredibly difficult situations. What matters most is someone who will share their experiences, stand with them, and walk with them. Whether they are migrants or refugees, victims of war, the hungry, or those living on our streets, what we hear is: “Please don’t forget me!” By our actions we reveal that God is with us and with them. “With us” is God’s intention.

    As Mary approaches Bethany, Elizabeth cries out to her, “Blessed are you among women!” Mary will go through a lot as mother of Jesus, but she will always carry this blessing with her. As we celebrate the birth of our savior, may we be a blessing to each other, and especially for those who need to know they are blessed.

    Merry Christmas!

    Kathy Brown is a board member of Catholic Charities Maine. She previously served on the staff of Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, in the Diocese of Phoenix and Tucson, plus numerous parishes. She also served as the regional coordinator for Caritas North America. Kathy has master’s degrees from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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