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December 20 - Hindsight is 20/20

Thursday, December 20, 2007
Each Advent we hear a lot in our readings about John the Baptist. An experienced preacher once told me that it is hard going thinking of new and innovative ways of preaching about John as it gets towards this point in the season. Most of the things that are important to say have already been said by others earlier on. How do you say the same thing again, in a different way, when Fr. X said it so well the other week? Having said that, when we get to today's Gospel, that whole process of underlining the importance of John seems to me to have been well worth while. Why so, you may ask? Today's Gospel gives us the account of the Annunciation to Mary and not another part of the story of John the Baptist. In any case, the events in John's life that we have been focusing on up to this point - his preaching and call to repentance - are much later, years after the Annunciation.

Well, perhaps we are given a hint in the story of the Gospel about what the fruit of 'preparing a way for the Lord' might be for us. We know little about Mary's life, but our belief about her as full of grace, prefect in her obedience to the will of God, becomes important in understanding what it was that John was proclaiming. Mary's life was lived as complete receptivity to God's Word, so much so that she was able to allow that the Word became flesh through her. If we take John the Baptist's message, and use it as a frame with which to look back in history at the Annunciation, we see that preparing the way for the Lord means making ourselves ready for Christ to dwell in us, at the level of the individual and of the whole Church. Today the Church gives us the example of Mary as the icon of that receptivity which results from having lived a life of devotion to God. May we take her example to heart, and through her intercession, may we be made ready to receive her Son this Christmas.

Robert Gay OP


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