Fourth Sunday of Advent
Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-11,16; Luke 1:47-55; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
God enters our world and our hearts with simplicity and humility, even when the complexities and crowdedness around us seem to offer no room for birthing divine presence. The giving of permission and place for Christ to be born is not something coerced but our consent to relinquish ego and attachments…allowing, letting go, and trusting the word and will of the One we love more than self or life. Jesus modeled and taught us how to pray this prayer of detachment and indifference to anything but the will of God:
Jesus’ Prayer in the Garden: “Not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42
The Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” Matthew 6:10
In Ignatian Spirituality, the prayer of indifference is the practice of letting go of anything that doesn’t help one to love God or others while staying engaged with what does. Indifference to Ignatius meant the spiritual freedom to place things, people, or experiences in God’s control. Indifference doesn’t mean the apathy or uncaring reflected in our modern use of the word “whatever,” but coming to a place of interior trust in God’s outcomes.
Ruth Haley Barton has been instructive on the prayer of indifference in her writings and podcast:
In the context of spiritual discernment, indifference is a positive term signifying that “I am indifferent to anything but God’s will”…there is a capacity to relinquish whatever might keep us from choosing God and love, and we have come to a place where we want God and God’s will more than anything—more than ego gratification, more than wanting to look good in the eyes of others, more than personal ownership, comfort or advantage. We ask God to bring us to a place where we want “God’s will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else… Not my will but thine be done”. In fact, indifference is not something we can achieve for ourselves. Just like everything else that is of significance in the spiritual life, God must accomplish this for us—which is why all we can do is pray and wait for it to be given. And God cannot give us indifference apart from our offering ourselves to him the discipline of detachment.
Practice. Take a personal inventory by looking around your home or place of work. Ask God to show you unhealthy attachments to possessions, time, or ego gratification. Recognize and name any attachment to secondary things such as titles, positions, honors, places, persons, security, and the opinions of others.
Then choose to practice detachment or letting go, by giving away something you are attached to or sharing something of value such as your expertise or free time with someone. A couple of examples to get you started: Make your favorite meal, spare no expense and triple the recipe, then take it to a shelter or soup kitchen. Give away your expertise in math, photography, or graphic design by teaching a class at a neighborhood after school program or job corps center.
Prayer. “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Where in your life do you need to say: “Let it be with me just as you say.” Light a candle and sit quietly and say the prayer several times. Allow any thoughts about a decision, issue or desire to come to mind and each time repeat the prayer: “God please, not what I want. What do you want?”
Breath prayer for this week—Not my will but yours.
A Reading from 2 Samuel 7
Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” 3 And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
4 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, 5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling.
Reflect. During Covid life we have been extremely grateful for family homes both solid and safe, yet mindful of many who live in “tents” unprotected from poverty and disease. When David saw the disparity of his privilege with the place given for God to dwell among the people, he had it in his heart to act, to build, to make things right. Our privilege has moved us as a family to bring about health and freedom for others in the giving of our resources and time.
What is in your heart to do?
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