The Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25. The Angelus prayer daily reminds us of the announcement of the Incarnation of the Word of God, Jesus Christ. The Feast of the Annunciation is a day celebrating Mary’s fiat – her “yes” to the will of God that the second person of the Holy Trinity could become incarnate in her womb and begin the journey of human development to be born nine months later on Christmas Day.
As we begin Advent, we celebrate almost four weeks of preparation to welcome the Word of God, Jesus. Advent is what I like to call a time of “pregnant pause” in the liturgical year.
As we finish the Church year with the great feast of Jesus Christ King of the Universe, we immediately begin the new liturgical year that brings us back to Jesus’ humble beginnings as a child born into the world. Imagine for a moment the weeks leading up to the birth of a child. The anticipation grows and preparations are made. Parents and loved ones become excited to welcome the new person into their lives and the world.
Advent focuses on of the various comings of Jesus as a child, but also as bridegroom and judge at the end of our lives and of the world. This past year has surely given us all the feeling of the “end of days” with a worldwide pandemic, ongoing political unrest, division and confusion. Now more than ever we need to focus on the power of the Word of God coming into the world at Christmas and into each of our hearts.
Words are powerful. We hear the simple “yes” of a Jewish girl more than 2,000 years ago allowing God to begin His great work of salvation. In her words, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” Mary’s faith and trust teach us something about the surrender needed to accept what God’s Word has prepared for each of our hearts. Like Mary, the greatest disciple, we are to respond to God with the same yes, so that He might overshadow us with His Spirit in order to make us “pregnant” with God’s life in our souls.
However, we struggle to be open and receptive; to have the courage to say this “yes” in our own lives. One place where this is painfully obvious is the world of social media. In fact, in our social media-driven world, we seem to do the very opposite. We seem to use a majority of our words on Facebook and Twitter to close, separate and divide. Take any controversial post and scroll through the comment boxes. We have all read the wide range of emotions – including vitriol, rancor and cyberbullying – expressed in those comment boxes. Yes, words are powerful.
The Gospel of John says the Word (Logos) became flesh and dwelt among us. Of course, Jesus is the Word of God who has become flesh at the Annunciation and then is born into the world at Christmas. The Greek word “logos” connotes a sense of reason, order, meaning and understanding. It is through the Logos of God that all things were created. Words are powerful indeed.
When we twist words or misuse them to be unreasonable, disordered or meaningless, we abuse the process of communication. Unfortunately, it feels like social media is the place for axe grinding, argument for argument’s sake, and egoism. It doesn’t bring about harmony in thought, but rather presents a cacophony of noise and confusion. Communication should be the process of bringing about oneness – a connection. This what Christmas is all about. God is communicating His Word to us in the person of His Son, Jesus. As the Word of God, Jesus speaks to us in language we can understand and tries to make a personal connection with us and dispel the confusion.
Advent is a time of the pregnant pause before a birth. I would encourage you take a “pregnant pause” in your own life to assess your relationship with the Word of God. As Catholics, we definitely see the Word of God revealed in Jesus, the Son. We also see the central role Scripture – the living Word of God – has in filling us with all biblical truth and grace.
During this Advent season, may we become more a people of the Word as we dive into reading, mediating on and living out God’s Word revealed in Sacred Scripture. On a practical note, consider how you are using social media as an avenue for expressing your words.
Words are extremely powerful. Mary’s yes, set in motion the story of our salvation. Let your words conform to the beauty of the Logos of God, which speaks reason, goodness and grace. Take advantage of this pregnant pause and consider the words within you before you speak.
Jay Wonacott is director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Boise.