Fr. Roger J. Landry
Pontifical North American College
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B
December 19, 1999
2Sm7:1-5,8-11,16; Ps 89; Rom 16:15-27; Lk 1:26-38
As we move within a week of Christmas, the Church presents to us in the Gospel the event of the Incarnation. She does so not simply because, biologically, the event of the incarnation is strictly speaking necessary for us to be able to celebrate the event of the birth of Christ, but also, I believe, because the Nazareth encounter of God’s messenger and the sinless representative of the human race serves as a paradigm of how the Lord intervenes in the life of every person he calls and how a person should respond in grace to that call. Such reflection on the episode of the incarnation, therefore, serves as a great preparation for our response to all the redemptive graces we have received and especially those God wants to give us at this time when we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ coming 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, his coming to us at the end of time, and his desire to enter into us more fully right now.
“The Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph of the house of David. The Virgin’s name was Mary.” We see here the great specificity of God in his call. He didn’t choose just any virgin. He chose one whom he had set out from all eternity, whom he had preserved free from all stain of original sin some 14 odd years earlier, who was betrothed to a descendent of the one to whom God promised he would build a temple. In a similar way, he came to 48 Dana Street, Lowell, MA to a boy identical in appearance to Scot Landry, to a son of Roger Landry, son of Emile and Therese, and Mary Cluff, daughter of Henry and Cecile. He came to similar abodes in Maryland, northwestern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Dakota and even South Korea. He hunted us down because we, although our vocations are less momentous than Mary’s, have a unique role in God’s church and plans.
“Upon arriving, the angel said to her: ‘Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” She was indeed truly blessed. But in an inaudible way, we, too, became aware of the Lord’s great plan, when we rejoiced because we recognized we had been filled with grace, that the Lord was indeed with us, and that he was calling us to be truly blessed among men by the vocation to the priesthood, to a radical conformation with his own Son, a call that so few people receive, and something that angels like Gabriel and sinless virgins like Mary would and must simply marvel at. These realizations can disturb us because they call us to something far greater than we know we’re humanly fit for, and we wonder about what all of this means. But the angel continues: “Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will be without end.” Time and again, messengers of God — in the confessional, in spiritual direction, in the comments of some child of God — assure us, “Do not fear, Erik, Rog, Paul, you have found favor with God. You will conceive with your words and bear in your hands the Son of the Most High whom you will call Jesus and whom the Lord God has given the throne of David his father and who is already ruling over the house of God in an everlasting reign.”
“How can this be,” the Blessed Virgin queries, “for I do not know man?” “How can this be,” we have queried, “for we’re not worthy of this call. Such a dignity is too much for us!” The angel answers: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God.” And the Holy Spirit came upon us during the ordination rite — Veni Creator Spiritus! — and the power of the Most High overshadowed us, making us capable of incarnating on the altar the Son of God who took flesh in the womb of the virgin. “Know that Elizabeth your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be sterile is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God.” This evidence of God’s inexplicable designs and power was made manifest to us in like ways. “Know that Mark Tucker your friend is now in the seminary; he who was thought to have a vocation to marriage is in his third theology year, for nothing is impossible with God.”
Each of the stories that got us to this room varies, but central elements unite us. We can all recount the countless ways God has come with precision directly into wherever we were hiding, showered us with his graces, removed our fears and doubts, buoyed us by the fact that he continues to work miracles in those we know, and finally pronounced how indeed blessed we are that the Lord is with us and calls us to such a wondrous and mysterious vocation. This becomes even clearer as we recall the great events of our faith like Christmas. There’s only one thing left: “Mary said: ‘I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.’” Now it’s time for each of us to respond…