“Consumerism, brothers and sisters, has stolen Christmas. Consumerism is not found in the manger in Bethlehem: there is reality, poverty, love. Let us prepare our hearts to be like Mary’s: free from evil, welcoming, ready to receive God.”
In his Angelus address, the pope meditated on the Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the final Sunday before Christmas, which describes Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-38).
He noted that the angel told Mary to rejoice because she would conceive a son and call him Jesus.
He said: “It seems to be an announcement of pure joy, destined to make the Virgin happy. Among the women of that time, which woman did not dream of becoming the mother of the Messiah?”
“But along with joy, those words foretell a great trial to Mary. Why? Because in that moment she was ‘betrothed’ to Joseph. In such a situation, the Law of Moses stipulated there should be no relations or cohabitation. Therefore, in having a son, Mary would have transgressed the Law, and the punishment for women was terrible: stoning was envisaged.”
Saying “yes” to God was therefore a life-and-death decision for Mary, the pope said.
“Certainly the divine message would have filled Mary’s heart with light and strength; nevertheless, she found herself faced with a crucial decision: to say “yes” to God, risking everything, even her life, or to decline the invitation and to continue her ordinary life.”
The pope recalled that Mary responded by saying: “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
“But in the language in which the Gospel is written, it is not simply ‘let it be.’ The expression indicates a strong desire, it indicates the will that something happen,” he said.
“In other words, Mary does not say: ‘If it has to happen, let it happen... if it cannot be otherwise…’ It is not resignation. No, she does not express a weak and submissive acceptance, but rather she expresses a strong desire, a vivacious desire.”
“She is not passive, but active. She does not submit to God, she binds herself to God. She is a woman in love prepared to serve her Lord completely and immediately.”
“She could have asked for a little time to think about it, or even for more explanations about what would happen; perhaps she could have set some conditions... Instead, she does not take time, she does not keep God waiting, she does not delay.”
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He contrasted Mary’s readiness to accept God’s will with our own hesitations.
He said: “How often -- let us think of ourselves now -- how often is our life is made up of postponements, even the spiritual life! For example, I know it is good for me to pray, but today I do not have time…”
He continued: “I know it is important to help someone, yes, I must do it: I will do it tomorrow. Today, on the threshold of Christmas, Mary invites us not to postpone, but to say ‘yes.’”
While each “yes” is costly, the pope said, it will never cost as much as Mary’s “yes,” which brought us salvation.
He observed that “May it be done to me according to your word” is the last phrase we hear from Mary on the final Sunday of Advent. Her words, he said, were an invitation to us to embrace the true meaning of Christmas.
“For if the birth of Jesus does not touch our lives -- mine, yours, yours, ours, everyone’s -- if it does not touch our lives, it slips past us in vain. In the Angelus now, we too will say ‘Be it done unto me according to Thy word’: May Our Lady help us to say it with our lives, with our approach to these last days in which to prepare ourselves well for Christmas,” he said.