We began our last Adult group last week, by taking time to reflect on our Advent so far. Each of us has had a unique journey and, like so often we retain that uniqueness, while also contributing and sharing Advent together.

We considered the themes of the three weeks so far, looking at the kingdom of God and we also considered aspects of our lives that also had an impact: the masses we attended, Advent Carols, our private prayer, the details of our daily lives; the conversations we have had, the work we have done, the songs we have sung, the stories we have read and watched. In a time of silence we sifted through all of this to get a feel for where God has taken us over the last few weeks.

We then used Mary's Magnificat for a time of Lectio Divina. After that we read the following quotes from Pope Francis about Mary:

“Believing in Jesus means giving him our flesh with the humility and courage of Mary, so that he can continue to dwell in our midst,” the Pope said. “It means giving him our hands, to caress the little ones and the poor; our feet, to go forth and meet our brothers and sisters; our arms, to hold up the weak and to work in the Lord’s vineyard; our minds, to think and act in the light of the Gospel; and especially our hearts, to love and to make choices in accordance with God’s will.”

Pope Francis Oct 12, in a catechetical talk

Mary lived perpetually immersed in the mystery of God-made-man, as his first and perfect disciple, by contemplating all things in her heart in the light of the Holy Spirit, in order to understand and live out the will of God. We can ask ourselves a question: do we allow ourselves to be illumined by the faith of Mary, who is our Mother? Or do we think of her as distant, as someone too different from us? In moments of difficulty, of trial, of darkness, do we look to her as a model of trust in God who always and only desires our good? Let’s think about this: perhaps it will do us good to rediscover Mary as the model and figure of the Church in this faith that she possessed!

The Church is sent to bring Christ and his Gospel to all. She does not bring herself — whether small or great, strong or weak, the Church carries Jesus and should be like Mary when she went to visit Elizabeth. What did Mary take to her? Jesus. The Church brings Jesus: this is the centre of the Church, to carry Jesus! If, as a hypothesis, the Church were not to bring Jesus, she would be a dead Church.

Mary prayed, she worked, she went to the synagogue… But every action was carried out in perfect union with Jesus…The reality Mary teaches us is very beautiful: to always be united with Jesus. We can ask ourselves: do we remember Jesus only when something goes wrong and we are in need, or is ours a constant relation, a deep friendship, even when it means following him on the way of the Cross?

Pope Francis General Audience St Peter’s Square, 23 Oct 2013

There was a lot to ponder here. People shared whatever they wanted about their own experience of this Advent. It was interesting to see how diverse this has been and made me think about how God gives us what we need at each point in our lives. Sometimes of the year we might be more aware that others.

We spent quite a lot of time talking about Mary, discussing what her experience of life must have been given that she was ‘full of grace.’ She was always on that place where she could respond completely freely to God’s love. We talked about what this meant and reflected on some of what the Bible said about her.

We thought about we have to learn about the Kingdom from looking at Mary. One person felt she offered hope: she gives us a glimpse of what we might be if we are open to grace.

Another person thought of the image of Jesus coming into being in Mary’s womb. As Jesus’ mother Mary brought him into the world. The Kingdom of God needs to, as Pope Francis says ‘means giving him our flesh.

Mary also shows a capacity for love in the heart in so many ways. It has the potential to be all consuming. She also shows great vulnerability and this in turn raises questions about our won ability to be vulnerable to God. We often have a tendency to protect ourselves.

We had already discussed the idea of healing, within Advent and talked about how the Kingdom of God brings healing to creation. We wondered about whether Mary was enabled, by God’s gift of grace, to live with the wounds of life, for example with the grief of experiencing the crucifixion.

We complete this last session by hearing the Old Testament Reading from midnight mass and praying the ‘Our Father.’

And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’”