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Advent: Rushing to the Side of Mary
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In the second half of Advent, the liturgy focuses on the Incarnation and birth of Jesus at the first Christmas.
We think about Mary's initial fear and uncertainty in the face of her unexpected pregnancy. When the Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she would conceive and bear a son, Scripture tells us, "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be" (Luke 1:29). Once told of the message, she expressed her doubt and confusion: "'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'" (Luke 1:34).
Of course, the Archangel reassures her with the oft-repeated Biblical words, "Be not afraid," explaining that everything will take place through the power and providence of God, who has a clear plan that -- with her cooperation -- will unfold for the good of the whole world.
Mary is consoled, though still not understanding the whole picture, and is led to express her trust and consent to God's will: "Fiat - Be it done unto me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). It is, in fact, at the moment of this "Yes" that the Son of God is conceived within Mary's body. Her "Yes" leads to life.
As the members of the Church hear this story again in Advent, they rush spiritually to the side of Mary in grateful wonder and with the support appropriate to sons and daughters. They eagerly await with her the birth of the Savior.
The best way for a parish to celebrate Advent and Christmas, then, is to rush physically to the side of those in the community who, like Mary, are uncertain and afraid about their pregnancy. We are to accompany them through their pregnancy with support and encouragement, help them to say the "Yes" that leads to life, and experience with them the fact that every birth reflects the joy of the birth of Christ.
This is possible when the Church raises awareness that there are alternatives to abortion, and that there are many people ready to provide those alternatives. Through the preaching and teaching that the Church carries out among its own members, and through announcing this message to the wider community, the Church saves lives and enables parents to live their calling.
This can be done by cooperation with the many pregnancy resource centers which, across the nation, are daily providing counseling, encouragement, medical and legal services, and other material and spiritual assistance, to those who otherwise might have an abortion. Churches should publicize the "Option Line" which is a toll-free number (1-800-712-HELP) and a website (PregnancyCenters.org) that leads people to the pregnancy centers nearest to where they live.
Churches also need to mobilize their own resources, calling upon medical and legal professionals within the congregation, as well as parishioners who may want to give of their time to be a friend to pregnant mothers or open their homes to give them a place to stay. In this way the Church can become the place of "first resort" for someone who is pregnant and afraid. It should be the Church, not the abortion mill, to which she first comes to knock on the door. The Gabriel Project, now operating in various dioceses, is a model for this kind of initiative.
To promote awareness and assistance, furthermore, many parishes have "Baby Showers" and "Spiritual Adoption Programs" of various formats, whereby the parishioners follow the development of a baby in the womb for nine months and then, at the conclusion, gather resources to give to local pregnancy centers to help mothers and fathers in need. In fact, since March of 2019, national pro-life groups have co-sponsored a project giving people an opportunity to follow the development of the child in the womb, culminating with birth on Christmas.
The birth of every child reflects the birth of Christ. Let there be joy in both. Let Advent and Christmas inspire us to rush to the side of all pregnant moms and say, "Be not afraid!"
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