Model of Faith

(Homily for Fourth Sunday of Advent - Year A)

Message: Mary is the model of faith.

Last Sunday I told you that I would introduce you to a woman who models all have learned about the light of faith:

What faith is: to turn from idols to the living God in a personal encounter
That we are saved by faith
That faith is inclusive, reasonable and makes forgiveness possible

Some of you asked who this remarkable woman is - and some even guessed that she is Sister Barbara! Well, Sister Barbara is a great model of faith, but she would not mind if I tell you there is someone who is a greater model. By now you have probably figured out who I mean: the one mentioned in today’s Gospel, the one who fulfills the Isaian prophecy: "The virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call him Emmanuel." The virgin mother is, of course, Mary.

Mary models everything we have learned about faith. Before giving examples, I would like to clarify something. Mary is a human being as you and I are - and she was subject to trials and temptations. Her temptations were different than ours, but that does not mean she had an easier time of it.

Just the opposite: You and I often fall for small temptations. I’ll speak for myself. The devil can often get the best of me with a piddling temptation - to anger, or lust or laziness, envy, greed or gluttony. To use a comparison: a guy wouldn't need a tank to overcome me. He could do it with a stick. The devil can get me with something small, but not Mary. As was the case with Jesus, the devil threw his biggest temptations at her.

We can barely imagine what they are, but we do get some glimpse in the Gospel. We see today the trial of her rejection by a very good man, the best of husbands - St. Joseph. But Mary kept her faith in Joseph as she did in God.

For us faith involves turning away from idols and turning toward the living God. Mary always kept her focus in the right place: "Let it be done to me according to your word...My soul magnifies the Lord."

She had total faith in God, but not what some people call a "blind faith." She asked questions, "How can this be since I have no relations with a man?" Faith does not destroy reason. As Pope Francis points out, "faith and reason each strengthen the other." Some people think that faith and reason are opposed, that there is some kind of war between faith and science. On the contrary, says Pope Francis, "By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation."

Mary is the model of wonder before the mystery of God and his creation. As we will hear on New Year’s Day, "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." We live in a time of so much noise, so many distractions that we have difficulty finding time for reflection and meditation. Faith cannot survive without prayer. People tell me, "Father, I am too busy." Yes, you are, but every evening Pope Francis spend an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Do you have more things to do than the pope does? Do you not find an hour in the evening for a television program or the Internet?*

"Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in hear heart." She is our model for faith and prayer. I know an hour can be a lot, especially when a person is just getting started, but how about 20 minutes in the morning or the evening? If we could do that for the next three days, what a great Christmas we would have!

And the people who come at Christmas might see in us the light of faith. We need that light because our world seems to grow darker and more uncertain. I talk to so many young people who sense a diminished future. But that does not have to be. Jesus was born in the middle of the night of our world’s darkness. With Mary’s example and prayer we can turn to him.

With the model of Mary I bring to a conclusion this series of homilies on the Light of Faith. I will pick up some of the themes on Christmas and New Years, but for today I conclude with a poem written by Pope Francis:

Mother, help our faith! 
Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call. 
Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith. 
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, 
especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross. 
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One. 
Remind us that those who believe are never alone. 
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, 
that he may be light for our path. 
And may this light of faith always increase in us, 
until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!
Amen.

************

*I know that some don't want any Christmas music during Advent, but I give you permission during these final days to put on an album, get a warm drink and spend quiet time listening to beautiful Christmas carols.

Versión Castellana

From Archives (Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A):

2010: Why Honor Mary?
2007: Merry Christmas, Mary
2004: Joseph, Do Not Be Afraid
1998: Iraq & Birth of Jesus

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

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Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)

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