December 24/25, 2017
When I was at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Calgary, I heard confessions for students of Clear Water Academy once a month. One day a grade two student went to confession. I gave her a penance: "Sarah, would you please say two Hail Marys for your penance?" The girl seemed to be puzzled. "What's wrong Sarah? Do you know how to say the Hail Mary?" "Yes, Father," the girl replied, "But I know only one Hail Mary." I said, "Well then you say it twice."
The passage of the Gospel of the fourth Sunday of Advent contains the most quoted words in the whole Bible: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you." Did you ever wonder how often those words are said every day? There are over one billion Catholics in the world. Let us suppose half of them recite the Hail Mary at least once every day. Now think of millions who pray the Rosary every day, repeating the word of the Angel Gabriel 50 times. Can you count how many Hail Marys they say a day?
Why do we do it? Why do we say those words of the angel every day? First of all, we want to remember and thank God for the gift of Incarnation, the turning point of human history, the moment God entered into the world in the form of a human being, the fulfilment of God's promise. Secondly, we want to praise the glory of God manifested in Mary. Why did he choose Mary to be the mother of his only son? It’s a great mystery. When the angel made clear that not human actions but divine power of the Holy Spirit would make the birth of the Saviour, Mary responded in
obedient faith: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word."
The birthday of Christ is around the corner. We are joyfully preparing for his coming. As Mary and Joseph, many of us also experience the difficulties in life, family anxiety, the pressures of society, and commercials during the holiday season. All of this can take us away from the true meaning of Christmas. That is why the Church asks us to look at Mary, the perfect model of all Christians. In fact she is the first Christian, because she believed and bore Christ in her womb. This Christmas, with her we pray for the coming of Christ into our secular world, and especially into our own lives, and into our own families. Then we become part of God's plan for our salvation as Mary did. We trust in his plan and his will for each and every one of us. And remember the word of the angel Gabriel: "Nothing will be impossible with God."
As Mary, we are chosen. As Mary, we are struggling now and then. Since Mary’s time, millions of Christians have followed in her footstep and among them was Jimmy. Whenever I'm disappointed with my spot in life, I stop and think about little Jimmy, a boy with autism. Jimmy was trying out for a part in the school Christmas Pageant. His mother said that he'd set his heart on being in it, though she feared he would not be chosen. On the day the parts were awarded, his mom went to collect him after school. Jimmy rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement. "Guess what, Mom," he shouted, and then said those words that will remain a lesson to me..."I've been chosen to clap and cheer."