Today we begin a new year. We are especially aware today of our existence as creatures who live in time. Another year has passed. For many of us, the years seem to go by ever more quickly. We know that we have a limited time on this earth, and moment by moment our time passes. We do not know when our time will be over, but we know that the end of our lives is one year closer today than it was last year at this time.
This can be a depressing realization if we are living a worldly, self-centered life. However, if our hearts are fixed on God, and striving to live in his will, then the passing of time takes on a different meaning. Time does not simply pass away; it leads us to God. The second reading tells us, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” We learn from this that God’s plan unfolds in time. He was working out his plan throughout the history of Israel. From the beginning he was preparing to send his Son to come among us as a man, to show us the love and mercy of the Father by his actions and words, and to give himself in sacrifice to reconcile us to the Father.
It was not always easy, down through the centuries, to see how this plan of God was being worked out. Although there were glorious moments like the reign of King David, and the consoling messages of the prophets, there were also countless times of hardship, when Israel suffered under corrupt and worldly kings, or was repeatedly conquered by various nations and driven into exile. Shortly before the time of Christ the Romans had taken control of Israel. For a faithful Jew at the time of Jesus’ birth, it would be hard to see how God’s plan was coming about in the midst of all this turmoil.
Reading history with the perspective of faith, we can see that everything was precisely leading up to the moment of Jesus’ coming. “In the fullness of time,” the angel Gabriel came to Mary and announced to her that she had been chosen to be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah. This is what we celebrate today, Mary’s divine motherhood. It is a celebration of God’s plan being worked out in time. It is also an invitation to cooperate with that plan by giving our “yes” to God as Mary did. He is the same God today as he was at the time of Jesus’ birth, and he continues to work out his plan in the day-to-day unfolding of our lives just as he did in Mary’s life.
Mary became the mother of Jesus when she gave her unreserved “yes” to the message of the angel. Her “yes” expressed her will to have the will of God be done in the world, in her life. She put flesh on the word of God, allowing him to be physically present in the world. Mary shows us how to respond to God ourselves, for we too are called to give our “yes” to God’s word, not only in our thoughts and words, but in our actions – in the moment-by-moment way in which we live out our lives in time.
The shepherds show us an example of this kind of response to God in the present moment. They are told by the angels that the long-awaited Savior has been born in Bethlehem, and they immediately go to see the Child, and to tell others about him. They praise and glorify God for his favor to them. This is the way that we should respond to God’s actions in our lives, following his direction without hesitation, and praising him for his goodness.
The first reading gives us a practical way to cooperate with God’s plan in the world, that is, to speak a blessing to those around us. Often our words to each other are not a blessing, especially in our families. As we continue to reflect upon the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we can resolve to be more careful in the words that we speak to each other. God’s plan for our families is certainly to bless them, and he can do that through us if we are open to his grace working in us.
Today, right now, is the “fullness of time” for some small part of God’s plan to be fulfilled in our own lives and circumstances. Let us open our hearts as Mary did, cooperating with God so that his wonderful plan may come about more fully in the world. Let us say with Mary, today and every day, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”
When do I live in a self-centered way? How can I embrace God’s will for me in my daily life? In what ways can I become a blessing to others?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 15, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.