With Christmas just a day away, Pope Francis said Mary’s humble and modest response at the announcement of Jesus’ birth reflects what our own attitude should be regarding God’s plan for our lives as we prepare for the incarnation.
In her response to the angel during the Annunciation, Mary’s attitude “perfectly corresponds to that of the Son of God when he comes into the world: he wants to become the Servant of the Lord, putting himself at the service of humanity in order to fulfill the plan of God,” the Pope said Dec. 24.
By saying “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” Mary “perfectly reflects” the words of Jesus himself, who in the Gospels tells God the Father that “I come to do your will.”
“In this way Mary is revealed as a perfect collaborator in the plan of God, and she is also revealed as a disciple of her son, and in the Magnificat she is able to proclaim that ‘God has exalted the lowly,’ because with this humble and generous response she has obtained a high joy, and even the highest glory.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square during his Angelus address for the fourth Sunday of Advent, which this year falls on Christmas Eve. Later this evening, at 9:30p.m. local time in Rome, he will celebrate the vigil Mass for Christmas in St. Peter’s Basilica.
In his Angelus address, the Pope pointed to the difference between the responses of the angel and Mary during the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke.
The angel’s declaration that Mary will conceive a son, that his name will be Jesus, that he will be the Messiah, and that he will have a specific mission in line with his ancestors David and Jacob, is “a long revelation, which opens unheard of perspectives,” he said, adding that after Mary’s question, the angel goes into further detail, and the revelation becomes “still more detailed and surprising.”
Mary’s response, on the other hand, “is a brief phrase, which doesn’t speak of joy, it doesn’t speak of privilege, but only of availability and service.”
Even the content of her response that “I am the handmaid of the Lord, do unto me according to your word,” is different, he said, noting that “Mary doesn’t exalt before the prospect of becoming the mother of the Messiah, but remains modest and expresses her own adhesion to the project of the Lord,” Francis said.
This contrast in their responses is important, he said, because it shows us that Mary is “truly humble and doesn’t try to show off.” Instead, Mary recognizes that “she is small before God, and she is content to be like this.”
However, at the same time Mary is also aware that the fulfillment of God’s plan depends on her response, and that she is therefore called to “adhere to it with her whole self.”
Pope Francis closed his address saying while admiring Mary for her response to the call and mission of God, we must also pray that she help each person “to welcome the plan of God in our lives with sincere humility and courageous generosity.”
After leading pilgrims in the traditional Angelus prayer, the Pope noted that the birth of the “Prince of Peace” is drawing nearer, and prayed for the gift of peace for the whole world, especially for those who “suffer most due to ongoing conflicts.”
He also prayed that everyone who has been kidnapped in these conflicts – priests, religious and lay men and women – would be set free and able to return to their homes.
Francis also prayed for the victims of a massive tropical storm that tore through the Philippine Island of Mindanao yesterday, killing at least 180 people, asking that God “welcome the souls of the deceased and comfort those who suffer due to this calamity.”
The Pope then gave a final piece of advice before Christmas, telling pilgrims to find a moment of silence to stop and pray in front of the nativity scene, and to “adore the mystery of the true Christmas, that of Jesus, who draws near to us with his love, humility and tenderness.”