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I Am the Servant of the Lord

December 20, 2020

A reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B. The readings are Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12, 14a, 16,  Psalm 89; Romans 16:25-27 and Luke 1:26-38.

Henry Ossawa Tanner’s 1898 painting, “The Annunciation.”

I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Those famous words, spoken by that teen-age girl, in Galilee, so long ago are a great conclusion to our Advent series this year.

For the last month we’ve been reflecting on what the Church calls the “Theological Virtues”: Faith, Hope and Love, as a response to all the doubt, despair and fear that seems to be all that we hear nowadays. The darkness of doubt, despair and fear can be turned into a holy darkness by Faith, Hope and Love.

Four weeks ago we learned that the best way to respond to doubt is through Faith and trust and that we should always ask the Lord to increase our Faith. Then we learned that Hope is like a light and that we, as Christians need to constantly be bringing the light of Hope into the world. Hope is so important that we dedicated two weeks to it. It’s not just important to bring Hope into the world, but we have to do so with Joy. Those messages of Hope are meaningless if they are not Joyful Hope.

Today we are going to talk about Love. Not only does perfect Love cast out all fear (1 John 4:18), but Love is the perfect virtue to bring everything we’ve been talking about together.

 It’s hard to control what we feel. We may feel doubt or despair and not be able to control those feelings. We may feel afraid and not be able to change how we feel. Even with Faith and Hope – you cannot force yourself to feel Hope or feel like you have Faith.

Love is an act of your will. We choose to love. Love is something we do. It doesn’t matter how you feel, you can still love. That’s how we can love our enemies. If Love were a feeling, Jesus would not have hung on the Cross out of love for you and for me because I can guarantee you that it didn’t feel good.

I ask couples that are getting married this: What do you mean when you say, “I love you”? Usually when we say “I love you” we mean, “I love how you make me feel” or “I love how I feel when I’m with you” or “you make me feel so good”. That’s not “I love you”, that’s “I love me”! I love you should mean, “I am going to put your needs before mine all the time, no matter what.”

Of course that’s what we do in Marriage – that’s married Love. We can’t love everyone that way all the time – but, we do have to consider that loving a stranger means doing what’s good for them, not what we think is right for them or how it makes us feel. 

Our readings today give us two great examples of how this can play out.

In the first reading we hear about King David. David loves God. Scripture tells us that he is a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). And God has been so good to David. He is now king and lives in a great palace in Jerusalem. He has no more enemies, life is great. And he notices that God lives in a tent. That’s because the people of Israel believed that God was present in the Ark of the Covenant, which was kept in a tent called Tabernacle. That’s how it had always been since the time of Moses so that it was easy to transport. But now there was no transporting necessary and God could not stay in a tent – not if David lived in a great palace.

David is doing this out of love for God, but, is he? Is he thinking about God’s needs? God doesn’t need anything from us. So how do we love God? We do what He asks us to do.

We can also learn something from how God loves David: He has given him so many blessings and will continue to give him blessings and even his descendants will get blessings. God gives David so much and David doesn’t have to give anything back. That’s the love of God: free, unconditional and faithful. You have it, no matter what. There’s nothing that we need to do in return. But we should respond to God’s love.

Compare that to Mary. The angel appears and Mary is afraid. She expresses doubt. That’s what she feels, but how does she respond? Her response is motivated by love. This is different than what happens with Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25). Same angel, same message, same doubt and same questions – but the motivation is different. We know by how the angel admonishes Zechariah that his response is motivated by doubt and fear – maybe even anger. Instead, Mary responds with love. Mary questions, but despite the doubt and the fear, she realizes that nothing is impossible for God. Mary considers: “What is the Lord asking me to do?” She prayerfully discerns and then responds: “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary’s responds by surrendering to God. And how does God love Mary? He asks; He doesn’t impose Himself. He surrenders to Mary too. Mary could have said no.

And how do we respond when we feel doubt, despair and fear? With love. It’s ok to question and to prayerfully discern. But we must realize that nothing is impossible for God.

I don’t know if what’s happening in the world right now is God’s will. But I do know one thing: Nothing happens in the world if God doesn’t allow it – so surrender to God: “I am the servant of the Lord.”  What does God want from us? He wants us to love. But not because, as some people say, “it’s all about love.”

You may not be able to control your feelings of doubt, of despair and of fear. You may not even be able to make yourself feel Faith and Hope. But you can love. That’s how we turn this darkness into a holy darkness. When you love you are saying “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” And when we do, Christ will be born through you, just like He did through Mary, and you will be able to deliver Him into the world.

Not just at Christmas, but all the time.

I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to His will.”

From → English, Reflections

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