The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.” “No,” Ahaz answered, “I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Then Isaiah said:
“Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Emmanuel,
a name which means ‘God-is-with-us'”.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, “Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” the angel answered, “and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.” “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” said Mary, “let what you have said be done to me.” And the angel left her.
There is this song called “I Wish You Jesus” that says that when we wish a person Jesus, it is better than wishing them joy and peace, riches, happiness, that their dreams come true, or even paradise. The reason for this is given as the song ends – ’cause when I wish you Jesus, I’ve wished you everything.
In today’s gospel reading, Gabriel greets Mary in a similar way when he says, “The Lord be with you”. I imagine Gabriel smiling to himself because he knows that he’s making a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy. Mary must have known as well as she was brought up as a Jewish girl and knew her scriptures well. This showed because Gabriel’s greeting left her disturbed and because she was asking herself what his greeting could mean.
As I reflected on this, I came to realise that Gabriel was in fact greeting Mary by saying something that amounted to “I wish you Jesus”, and indeed Mary did get Jesus, as she was the virgin prophesied by Isaiah. She became the virgin with child, the one which was called Emmanuel, which means “God-is-with-us”. Angels’ wishes are powerful, as we see, since Gabriel’s wish was fulfilled.
“The Lord is with you” certainly is a powerful wish we can greet others with, and indeed we are greeted by it very frequently. If you remember the greeting by the celebrant at Mass, the priest will make the sign of the cross, followed by, “The Lord be with you”, and of course we all respond, “And also with you.” We might not think of it when we attend Mass, but from today onwards, you will remember that when the celebrant greets you at Mass, he is greeting you in the same way that the angel Gabriel greeted Mary.
You will also remember that this greeting, this wish was fulfilled. Likewise, when the priest greets us during Mass, this wish is also fulfilled for it is at the Mass that we receive Jesus. We become pregnant with the Word like Mary was, and as the Mass concludes, we are asked to give birth to Jesus in the world that we are in. Once more in the Concluding Rite, the priest blesses us with “The Lord is with you”, and we respond, “And also with you”.
Let us pause for a few moments to contemplate the incredible depth that is contained in the greeting and farewell blessing, “The Lord be with you”.
Dear Jesus, thank You for coming into the world through Mary, and we ask You to give us the faith that we need to grasp the depth of the mystery of Your Incarnation, the mystery that allows God to be with us always. Amen.
Give Thanks to the Lord for: Being with us.
Fri, 21 Dec – Songs 2:8-14; Luke 1:39-45; Memorial for St. Peter Canisius, presbyter, religious, doctor of the Church
Sat, 22 Dec – 1 Samuel 1:24-28; Luke 1:46-56
Sun, 23 Dec – Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24; Fourth Sunday of Advent
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