‘I am the handmaid of the Lord’
Begin with a few moments of quiet.
The intention is to open yourself to the presence of God within you and among those gathered. The desire to be open to God is itself the desire of God to break through into your awareness of the presence of God within.
Invite all present to sit comfortably.
Bringing our attention to our breath…….deepening it for a moment…… we are going to do so for three full breaths, drawing the breath all the way in …. feeling it filling your body……focusing on that moment where it stops drawing in and before the body begins exhaling again….. the transition point between the end of one moment and the beginning of another……allowing it all the way out and again focusing on the transition point….the end of one moment and the beginning of another…….
Now return to breathing normally and make the sign of the cross:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Invite each person present to take a few moments to reflect on:
Where in the past week did I encounter God in my life?
Where in the past week did I inhibit God in my life?
Allow time in quiet for this and then, after a few moments, invite those present to share on this, if they are comfortable to do so. If you like to have some quiet music playing during this click below.
Introduce the Gospel
The season of preparation is drawing to a close. Like Mary, our getting ready involves deep listening to what God is asking of me now and an interior willingness to say “let what you have said be done to me.” What is God asking of me now, as a person, in the family, at work, and indeed within the faith community of the Church? Have I noticed a pattern of “nudges” from God calling me to a deeper, perhaps different engagement as a disciple? Are my gifts—tokens of God’s grace—fully at the service of my neighbour?
Read the Gospel
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
Practice: Letting Go Is Liberation
In our Gospel we hear Mary’s acceptance of the message, her letting go of herself. This week I offer you a meditation from the Richard Rohr daily reflections. This one, presented on Friday, December 18th, invites us to reflect on letting go. Take time then to read it and to sit with any of the thoughts or ideas it opens for you.
In talking about letting go, we are really talking about liberation. It’s a type of liberation theology for a Global North country, if you will. Here are the proper questions: What is it we need to be liberated from, and what is it we need to be liberated for? And who is the liberator?
I think we need at least six kinds of liberation:
- Inner liberation from ourselves (letting go of the centrality of the small self)
- Cultural liberation from our biases (which involves letting go of the “commodity” culture and moving into the “personal” culture) 
- Dogmatic liberation from our certitudes (letting go of the false self and discovering the True Self)
- Personal liberation from the “system” (letting go of dualistic judging and opening to nondual thinking)
- Spiritual liberation for the Divine (some form of letting go happens between each stage of spiritual growth)
- Liberation for infinite mystery (the mystery that what looks like falling is in fact rising), which is really liberation for love.
As you have often heard me say, if you do not transform your pain, you will most assuredly transmit it. Healthy religion on the practical level tells us what to do with our pain—because we will have pain. We can’t avoid it; it’s part of life. If we’re not trained in letting go of it, transforming it, turning crucifixion into resurrection, so to speak, we’ll hand it off to our family, to our children, to our neighborhood, to our nation.
The art of letting go is really the art of survival. We have to let go so that as we age, we can be happy. Yes, we’ve been hurt. Yes, we’ve been talked about and betrayed by friends. Yes, our lives didn’t work out the way we thought they would. Letting go helps us fall into a deeper and broader level at which we can always say “Yes.” We can always say, “It’s okay, it’s all right.” We know what lasts. We know who we are. And we know we do not want to pass our pain on to our children or the next generation. We want to somehow pass on life.
This means that the real life has started now. It’s Heaven all the way to Heaven and it’s Hell all the way to Hell. We are in Heaven now by falling, by letting go, and by trusting and surrendering to this deeper, broader, and better reality that is already available to us. We’re in Hell now by wrapping ourselves around our hurts, by over-identifying with and attaching ourselves to our fears, so much so that they become our very identity. Any chosen state of victimhood is an utter dead end. Once you make that your narrative, it never stops gathering evidence about how you have been wronged by life, by others, and even by God.
Maybe this is why scholars have said two-thirds of the teaching of Jesus is, in one form or another, about forgiveness. Forgiveness is simply the religious word for letting go. Eventually, it feels like forgiving Reality Itself for being what it is.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, discs 3 and 6 (Sounds True: 2010), CD; and
Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction, disc 1 (Franciscan Media: 1987, 2005), downloadable audiobook.
Close the time of prayer with the Our Father
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Take a moment now to bring to mind those you want to share peace with, family, friends, those where your relationship is broken.
Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,
that, by the help of your mercy,
we may be always free from sin
and safe from all distress,
as we await the blessed hope
and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
You can sign up for Richard’s daily reflections on the website of the Centre for Action and Contemplation (CAC) – by clicking here.
Fr. Kieran O’Mahony offers a scriptural analysis on the Readings in Written or on Video
The Spirit of God is seeking to create a newness in our lives, that calls us to a fresh wholeness that requires much letting go of what we have known, and co-creating with God an undreamt-of future for our church, for our world and for ourselves. This does not mean forgetting the past, which has brought us to the present.
The Gospel life is about a new future in God. In an incarnational, evolutionary universe nothing is complete and God is still creating. We are a central part of this creation which is happening in our midst.
For an expanded and helpful discussion on liberation from our biases, listen to the newest CAC podcast Learning How to See with Brian McLaren, Jacqui Lewis, and Richard Rohr.