The waiting is almost over
Michael Gilbert CSsR
Almost 60 years ago the world was shaken by the civil rights movements in America. Martin Luther King and others launched a massive direct-action campaign in Birmingham, Alabama. King was arrested for defying a state law that forbad mass public demonstrations. In prison, he penned, on the margins of the local newspaper, his ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’.
In this letter, Martin Luther King articulated principles for achieving liberation for his people. He spoke of his impatience: “For years now, I have heard the word ‘Wait’! This ‘wait’ has always meant ‘never’. When you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodyness’, then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.” He went on to say that human progress “comes through the tireless efforts of those willing to be co-workers with God and, without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation”.
Today we reflect on the story of the Annunciation. It is a story of liberation. God is intervening in human history. Via the angel Gabriel, God announces to a tired-of-waiting world that he will not abandon humanity to endless futility and is sending the long-awaited messiah.
God’s design for the world requires human co-operation. It is given by Mary. She is told that she is to be the mother of the saviour. The news comes out of left field. There was an expectation that the messiah would be a person of significant importance. Mary is merely a lowly village girl. The news astonishes and troubles her. “How can this be?” she asks. Gabriel reassures, “Do not be afraid”. This work will be accomplished in and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Divinely reassured, Mary consents. The Word becomes flesh. The long wait for liberation is over.
Advent is a time of waiting but it is coming to an end. We can be so swept up in the rush as to forget that the primary reason for celebrating Christmas is to welcome Christ into our lives.
Perhaps we might take a ‘Mary moment’ to be surprised that God chooses each of us, through our baptism, to be a Christ-bearer in our families, our workplaces, our world. We will feel inadequate and unworthy; but nothing is impossible with God. If God can call a young girl from an insignificant town and betrothed to a carpenter to bring the saviour into the world, God can do the same for you and me.
Today is a day to answer that call; to listen to angelic reassurances that we are not to be afraid; that we have the support and encouragement of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Today is a day to renew our personal ‘yes’ to God’s call to be a willing co-worker with God to bring peace and liberation for all. Our world is waiting for our response.
Michael Gilbert CSsR