Can you imagine yourself going through so much issues like health problems, family problems, economic issues, stress, depression etc and you are looking for solutions to these problems or issues for years, yet no remedies or solutions. Everything you tried failed and every solution seemed inadequate. All of a sudden, you see this ray of hope that promises to take care of everything for you, all your worries and problems, what would your reaction be? Of course, you will be in shock at first, then excited and happy later hoping for the best for you, but still worried about how this would work. This is the story of Israel before the time of Jesus. They have gone through some much already and are still experiencing more difficulties and hardships. But all of a sudden, God sends Angel Gabriel to a young virgin called Mary to tell her that their Savior is coming and that she (Mary) will give birth to Him. She was in shock at first, then excited and happy because Israel’s liberation and salvation was at hand, but worried about how this was going to be possible. Mary even in her worry still had hope in the Lord because with God everything is possible and responded to Angel Gabriel, "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word." Hope my dear friends is very important in the life of every Christian. Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen or a feeling of trust. Hope is recognized in the Old Testament as one of the most essential and important characteristics of the true people of God especially in times of exile, slavery, bondage, hardship, difficulties and trials in their lives. The season of Advent is a season of Hope in the coming of Jesus Christ who will bring joy, peace and salvation to the world. Mary in today’s gospel reading with these words “be it done to me according to your word” shows us the importance of Hope in our lives as Christians and what that hope entails. With those words, Mary affirms her unworthiness to be the mother of God and her hope that God’s words will be fulfilled in and through her. Thus, this act of Hope shown by Mary points us to an interior preparation and purification through prayer and mortification which is one of the ways we were reminded on the First Sunday of Advent to prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ and for us to welcome Him into our lives and world this Christmas season.

Do we really know how to pray? Do we pray with respect and reverence to God? When we pray, do we pray with total confidence in God, that is with faith, hope and trust in Him like Mary did? Do we practice mortification by subduing our body or its needs and desires by self-denial or discipline as a spiritual practice to help us come closer to God?

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we prepare for the birth of Christ this Christmas season, let us like Mary practice interior purification by praying better daily with reverence, respect and focus on God and by mortifying ourselves through self-denial and discipline so as to grow in our faith, hope and trust in God. Amen.