Grace: An intimate knowledge of our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely
Text for Prayer: Spiritual Exercises nos. 101-109
Reflection: In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict, following Origen, describes Jesus as the Kingdom of God personified. Christ Himself is the place where the will of the Father is carried out perfectly, and to be in His presence is to be in the presence of the Kingdom of God. This puts a new twist on parables dealing with the Kingdom, such as that of the mustard seed. In this parable we read that
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard see which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches. (Mt. 13: 31-32)
If the Resurrection is the mustard plant (and Kingdom) fully bloomed, then the Incarnation is the mustard still in seed form. The Son of God comes to Earth, and takes a form which appears totally insignificant. The Word is made flesh in such a way that upon His birth, He cries out for any of His needs to be met (fairly often, for an infant) and as He sleeps, He does so not far from the mess of animals. Smallest of the seeds, indeed.
But this is what the Trinity wanted when They decided to bring about the Incarnation. The Trinity looks upon the whole human race, “some at peace, and some at war; some weeping, some laughing […] and all going to Hell.” (SpEx. 106) The Trinity sees us bound for damnation because we believed the lie of the serpent that if we could commit the one act of disobedience we “will be like gods” (Gn. 3: 3). Our going to Hell is the result of our first parents disobeying God to become infinitely great. So, to bring about our salvation, the Trinity decides to take the opposite approach. The Word will save us by becoming infinitely small. At the first moment of His conception, He is smaller even than a mustard seed.
Gabriel assists in this task by bringing the news to Mary. At the moment of the Annunciation, we actually learn nothing about Gabriel himself. He does not preach himself to Mary in the slightest, even though he must have seemed quite godlike to her at first. He gives Mary comfort, announces God’s will, and is gone. Lucifer cannot preach anyone but himself, whereas Gabriel preaches about everyone but himself. He imitates the Word, and allows the glory of God and the salvation of humanity to totally overshadow him.
Mary accepts the Incarnation in lowliness. Her one protest is that she is not fit to be the mother of our Savior. But when Gabriel assures her that she is indeed the one whom God has chosen, she gives her fiat. No speech of thanks, no grandstanding, but a response as simple as she.
In all of this, we ought to be confounded. If the defeat of Hitler required the storming of Normandy in great force, surely the defeat of Satan calls for something greater still. This is the paradox of the Incarnation. The Kingdom of God will become something truly great, known the world over. But first, it must enter into the world quietly. We must see for ourselves that the Kingdom of God is not about a grandiose display of God’s power to humanity, but a quiet promise of love for humanity.
Questions: How can I respond to God with the humility I see here? How can I show God, rather than myself, to others? How can I serve God in the quiet Kingdom I see before me? How can I best respond to the love I see God showing for me here?