Finding Direction When I'm Greatly Troubled

December 20, 2020   Fourth Sunday of Advent (Lectionary: 11) 

Reading 1   2 SM 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16
When King David was settled in his palace,
and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,
he said to Nathan the prophet,
“Here I am living in a house of cedar,
while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
Nathan answered the king,
“Go, do whatever you have in mind,
for the LORD is with you.”
But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?’“

"'It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.'”

Responsorial Psalm   PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
R. (2a) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
The promises of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2   ROM 16:25-27
Brothers and sisters:
To him who can strengthen you,
according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested through the prophetic writings and,
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ
be glory forever and ever.

Alleluia   LK 1:38
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   LK 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

By Michael Cabrera 

Growing up in a Catholic household, I am no stranger to Marian imagery: the various figurines, ranging in both size and style, scattered throughout the house, the statue of Mary, always accompanied by flowers, nestled below the cross at my Church’s altar, the rosary dangling from the car’s rear view mirror. 

Yet despite the normalcy of Mary’s image in my everyday, I still find it hard to relate to this figure so innate to my Catholic faith.

I struggle to see more than just resin statues and framed paintings collecting dust.

In my ignorance, I allow a veneer of polished statues and paintings to remind me of just how far from holiness I am, just how far removed I am from someone like Mary herself. 

In today’s Gospel reading, Luke recounts the moment when Mary gives herself to the will of God in her famous Fiat. But the words, “May it be done to me according to your word,” assume a greater layer of meaning when I read a couple lines before. At the presence of Angel Gabriel standing before her, Mary, as Luke describes her, is “greatly troubled.”

In these two simple words, the distance that statues and paintings create is torn and I am reminded of Mary’s humanity. While I know Mary is no god, it is nonetheless difficult to see myself in a woman so entrenched in holiness and virtue.

But I am reminded through this Gospel that Mary’s realities were not too different from mine.

I too am greatly troubled. Among many things, I am greatly troubled by the realities of a pandemic. I am greatly troubled by the inequities that exist in our world. I am greatly troubled by what the will of God may mean in my own life.

And while my faith is quite far from Mary’s, there is always a certain comfort found in the thought that Mary, the mother of the God of the universe, was also scared at times.

There is comfort to be found in the knowledge that my imperfection and propensity to fear does not make holiness any less possible in my life. 

This advent, I am called to prepare through acknowledging His presence in my life, whether that be through scripture, the sacraments, or simply finding him in my everyday. Though this, I hope to open the imperfect stable of my heart for His coming. And through Mary, I am reminded that Christ so deeply desires to meet my greatly troubled heart.


Michael Cabrera is a current student at UC Berkeley and is active at the Newman Center, which is the Catholic center for the university. Originally from Southern California, Michael loves architecture, all things design, boba, and encountering Beauty itself in every moment. 

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