Mary's Amen

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

It is a great joy for a mother to give birth to her baby. The great moment comes after weeks of anxious expectation, highs and lows, getting clothes for the new baby, preparing everything necessary. Because the mother carries the baby in her womb, there is a special bond between the mother and child. During Advent we have been thinking of Mary bearing Jesus in her womb. During Advent we remember Jesus growing silently and invisibly in Mary’s womb. Now on this last Sunday of Advent we think more particularly about Mary.

Israel had been awaiting its Messiah for hundreds of years. We could imagine that it was probably the dream of many a young Jewish girl to give birth to the Messiah. But when the great moment of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary came, Mary was perplexed. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 1:30) The angel explained that Mary would give birth to Jesus whose father would be the Holy Spirit. This put Mary in a really awkward situation. She was betrothed to Joseph. That meant they were legally bound to each other although they did not live together. In Israel a woman who was unfaithful during betrothal was stoned to death (Deut 22:20-21). What was Mary’s response? “Be it done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Her response was faith. She believed. We have always regarded Mary as a model believer, an example of faith. But when we consider that the possibility that being stoned to death awaited Mary for saying “yes” to the angel, we see how strong her faith really was. She was willing even to risk death for the sake of obeying God. We can also easily imagine all the many nasty things that were said about Mary, all the nasty looks that she had to endure, and all the hushed whisperings that she knew were about her. She was indeed a woman of great faith.

What were the words that Mary would have said to the angel in Aramaic the language in Palestine at that time? “Amen.” One word in Aramaic, the language of Palestine, says it all, “Amen.” It means, “So be it”, “be it done unto me according to your word.” Mary literally said, “Amen”, and then she conceived Jesus in her womb. St. Augustine (Sermon 25) says Mary believed by faith and conceived by faith, i.e. conceived Jesus in her mind through faith before conceiving him in her womb.

In our times we like to have everything explained to us scientifically. If something does not stand up to science some do not believe. Faith means believing what science cannot prove. That was the faith that Mary had. Mary is a model believer, a model of faith for every age but especially for our time with our emphasis on proving everything by science. Because God is God, he does not have to obey the laws of science. Therefore Mary, a virgin conceived from the Holy Spirit, and an old couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist. Faith believes, as the angel Gabriel said, that “Nothing is impossible to God.” (Luke 1:37)

Mary was humble; that was why she was able to make the greatest act of faith in history. Mary said one word to the angel, “Amen”, conceiving Jesus in faith, and then she conceived Jesus in her womb. Every time we say “Amen” to God, we conceive Jesus in faith as Mary did. Then when we act on Jesus’ words, we bring Jesus into the world as Mary did. Let us say “Amen” to God and bring Jesus into the world this Christmas.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Fourth Sunday of Advent Year B

Jesus came because Mary surrendered to God and said “Yes”

Saying “Yes” to Jesus’ invitation to allow Him into our Lives

Related Homilies: Mary Full of Grace

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