Blogger’s Note: This reflection was originally published in the Sunday, January 19, edition of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.
Last weekend marked the official end of the Christmas season and the Church’s return to Ordinary Time. Of course, our life in Christ should be anything but ordinary. In early days, Christianity was known as the Way, and its followers lived lives that were different from the world around them, marked by solidarity, charity and joy.
As modern disciples, our lives should also be distinct from the world around us. As a community, this distinctiveness appears in our regular participation in Mass, Confession and the other sacraments; in our reverence for and adoration of the Holy Eucharist; and in our visible adherence to the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church as taught by Jesus and His apostles.
We are also called as individuals to follow Christ in a particular way. This Advent and Christmas I found myself reflecting on our Blessed Mother, Mary, as the model of discipleship. While she, like all of us, was called to holiness, her specific vocation was unique and deeply personal. Called upon to bear the Son of God, once she said yes, “the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38). She was left to explain her unplanned pregnancy to her betrothed and her family, to risk death by stoning, to endure the accusing stares of her community, to bow in obedience to the will of God and watch her son suffer and die at the hands of her own people.
How lonely she must have felt, and yet she was not utterly alone. The moment she said yes to God’s plan, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, taking her for His own, and she conceived in her womb the Lord of the Universe. Historically, the Feast of the Annunciation was known as the Feast of the Incarnation, because in that moment (not at Christmas) God became human. God was with Mary both materially and spiritually—sacramentally—as she brought Jesus into the world.
How does Mary’s model of discipleship apply to us today? Each of us also has an individual call: a particular mission we are asked by God to carry out. This personal call is as unique as we are, and like Mary’s, it is not meant for our glory, but for God’s. At times it will be difficult and lonely to carry out—but He is with us, as close as oil on skin in our Baptism and Confirmation, in the flesh in Holy Communion, and in equally perceivable ways in the other sacraments of the Church.
As in Mary’s time, the days are dark, and it seems as though the earthly powers are massed against us. Even so, He hears the cries of His people. He asks each of us to put ourselves at His disposal—to risk our reputations and relationships, our livelihoods and lives, to conceive and bear Jesus to a waiting world.
As baptized or confirmed Catholics, we have already given our fiat—our yes—to God. We are already with Child. How and where will He be born in our lives?