B Cycle – 4th Sunday of Advent 20
Mary, you have found favor with God. Wouldn’t each of us love to hear God say those amazing words to us? What do we have to do to find favor with God?
Moses, after the Exodus, had an encounter with God on the mountain. Most of us know the story but only portions of it so we have an abbreviated version of their discussion. You might be wondering how that encounter between Moses and God has anything in common with the discussion between the Angel Gabriel and Mary. Yet both found favor with God and because of that it is very relevant for us to see how we are looked on with favor by God.
Let us consider Mary, with such little knowledge about her life we do know certain facts which makes it very difficult for us to compare ourselves to her. We know she was shielded from Original Sin as she was conceived in her mother’s womb. That makes her special and places her in a unique place among us humans; all of us are tainted by Adams sin. From that point on in her life we know nothing about her until she appears before Elizabeth and is exalted by Elizabeth.
Mary’s response to Elizabeth is a classic which has become a staple prayer of the church, said each day in the office. She said in response to Elizabeth, “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savoir, for he who is mighty has done great things and holy is his name.” Would it surprise you to know that is exactly how God desires you to know him? It is exactly how God wishes us to respond to his forgiveness, his mercy, and his constant love for us. How Mary’s spirituality got there we do not know but because we know she was born without the stain of original sin. We know she was prepared from birth for her role in salvation history. For her unequivocal yes to God’s angel, we honor her. We have placed her in a category above all others in salvation history.
If you take the time to reflect on it, we will never think it possible to attain the status with God that Mary had. Her connection with God is beyond our human capabilities to attain. So, we look elsewhere for inspiration to grow in favor with God. What we believe about Mary prevents us from even believing God’s favor can be poured out on us for it is only for the super holy or saintly. This means us mortal humans can obtain some form of grace, but “God’s favor” is only for those chosen few we encounter in the scriptures. It is reserved for those the church names as saints. We want God’s favor but to attain it we must strive for it, work for it, sacrifice for it.
Let us go back to Moses and look at one conversation he had with God on the mountain. Moses said to God: “you (God) said I have found favor with you so I may continue to find favor with you teach me your ways” (Ex. 33:11-2).
If you pay attention to this request of Moses, you will discover that Moses is asking God to show him exactly how to attain what we say is only for the super holy – favor with God. Remember Moses never considered himself qualified for the task of freeing the Israelites from slavery. In fact, he repeatedly says he is not the person to fulfill that task and wants proof God will be with him.
What is important for us to understand is the response of God to this question about how to continue to find favor with God. Moses was told the key to finding favor with God is to “love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our strength.” Mary obviously loved God and her response to Elizabeth flows out of her knowing God loved her in return. That my brothers and sisters is the key to walking in the favor of God.
Do you think what was asked of her by the angel was easy to embrace? No and her response is so trusting in an event that is without precedent it forms the basis of why we honor her. It had to come out of knowing God’s heart and that knowledge came out of a deep heartfelt knowledge of God’s ability to move us beyond ourselves. From the moment of her conception Mary lived a life seeking God’s heart and that is why she found favor with God.
How can you and I find favor with God? That is the desire of God’s heart and it should be our quest as it was Moses and was Mary’s.
The key is for us to seek to know God so we can love God as much as he loves us. Loving God means we want to be in the presence of the one we love. The more we love, the more we reveal our innermost fears and doubts just as Mary did when she said,” how can this be, I do not know man.” Loving God means we trust even when we cannot see the outcome and we never ever falter in our belief in the one we love.
When we reach that point, we will hear the words of God saying to us, “you have found favor with me.”