This weekend is Saturday the 8, the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, and Sunday the 9 December, the Second Sunday of Advent.

Nóirín Ní Riain sings the Magnificat, the song of Mary: “My soul glorifies the Lord.  My Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. He looks on his serv­ant in her lowliness.  Henceforth, all ages will call me blessed.” As I listen, can I sense the Lord looking on me in my lowliness, and can I rejoice in him and in all that he does for me?

Last week’s readings were full of promises. The prophet Isaiah looks forward to a time of peace and prosperity. It’s a time full of hope, of security, and of justice. It’s easy to identify with these hopes, because they are shared by practically every human being on the planet, then and now. You probably share them yourself. But as soon as these hopes are stirred up, a question arises. How are the hopes going to be answered? In this weekend’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, we hear God’s response described…

Mary is a young woman going about her everyday life, when she suddenly receives a message from God’s messenger. It’s a message that will turn her world upside down. Do you have a sense of what that must have been like for her? Of what is passing through her mind and her heart as she hears these words?

After an initial greeting, the angel’s first words are “Do not be afraid”. Jesus will have occasion to say these same words many times to his disciples. That’s understandable, because there is much in our world that can seem threatening. Is there anything that you are facing at the moment, where it would be good to hear Jesus say to you “Do not be afraid”?

At the end of the reading, Mary gives her consent to God’s plan. This is important. God doesn’t use human beings as puppets. Are there times when you are aware of having said a clear “Yes” to something you sensed God was asking of you?

As the passage is read again, listen carefully to what God is asking of Mary, and to the different responses that she makes.

At the end of the passage, we are told that the angel departed from her. If you were with Mary at that moment, what would you want to say to her? Or to the God who sent this message?