The Fourth Sunday of Advent

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Micaela Randolph, OSB | December 20, 2020

Needless to say, our whole world has experienced something which has affected all humankind and will continue to affect us in time to come. We never thought something like this would ever happen.  A Pandemic.  We have also experienced the election of a new president, President Biden.  This too, will continue to affect us and our country and the world in the years ahead.  These two events have created chaos, struggle, fear, and challenge, but they have also created excitement, confidence, energy, hope, and many more life-giving experiences. These two events are what we call defining moments for all of us.   

Another defining moment is the one we just heard in the Gospel for this 4th Sunday of Advent, this beautiful Gospel of the Annunciation.  The art, the poetry, the music, and the dance, throughout the centuries, have all tried to capture this mysterious and beautiful moment when the Angel Gabriel asks Mary if she would become the mother of God!  And as heaven and earth waited, Mary answered, “Be it done unto me according to your word.” How do we grasp this unbelievable kindness and goodness of God, how do we appreciate or understand the kind of love that God has for us!   As I was pondering this gospel and this homily, I was so stuck by the first sentence in the reflection from Give Us this Day, from Sr. Maria Boulding.  I stopped and read that sentence again and then again.

Sr. Maria wrote:  “Mary’s virginity at the time of the Annunciation was poverty and emptiness”. That sentence really gave me reason to pause.  Poor and empty?  There must be something here that I need to ponder. As I reflected on that, the reason that it struck me was that I realized my response to poverty and emptiness is automatically negative.  To be poor is to lack something that I need and to be empty means I have nothing to give. And so the sentence, that Mary’s virginity was one of poverty and emptiness, gave me cause to stop and to go deeper into what that meant for Mary, for me and for us.

In her reflection, Sr. Maria was offering us a new understanding of emptiness and poor and also a new challenge. I was anxious to continue reading. She wrote, “Mary’s emptiness was one of unimpeded openness to God.  And her poverty was one of patient waiting.”  Unimpeded openness to God and patient waiting!  How beautiful that is!


Being empty and poor are not to be overcome so we can be full and rich, but rather it is to be lived into and taken on as our own way of being.  Mary is gifting us with her own insight!  She shows us how we might prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus within us.

So we reflect! 

What are the impediments that are hindering us from giving birth to the Christ Child? Are we so taken up with all the things we want, with all the things we think we need.  Are we those who think more is always better?  


So what does the space within us look like? Is it crowded or cluttered, noisy or anxious? Or is it poor and humble?  Is there room for Jesus? Is there room for others?

So as Mary waits in poverty and emptiness let us pray for ourselves and one another that we, too, wait with her.  That the space within us somewhat mirrors the space in her in which the Christ Child felt so at home, in Mary’s womb, a womb of poverty and emptiness.