The Fourth Sunday of Advent
In our Gospel reading from Luke, we hear the account of the Visitation, the time when Mary after hearing from the angel Gabriel that she is to be the mother of the Messiah, is also told that her relative Elizabeth, thought to be incapable of conceiving a child, has conceived! Filled with Good News, and anxious to see how Elizabeth is doing, Mary rushes to visit her.
The meeting between these two faith-filled women highlights all the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the births of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. When we examine the words spoken by Elizabeth to Mary, we may find that there is some meaning in them for us:
"Blessed are you among women…" – Mary, as the mother of the Messiah, is indeed blessed. Can we see ourselves blessed as well? Granted, it can be hard to see any blessings. But we can still know that we are loved by God, just like Mary! The coming of Jesus into this world in order to save us is testimony to that fact!
"… and blessed is the fruit of your womb." – Jesus, as the Son of God become one of us, can be said to be more than blessed! These words also tell us that all our children are a blessing. We have been reminded of that in a mournful way after the shooting in Newtown. But even beyond Newtown, we know that so many children (many of them girls) in so many parts of the world are seen as unwanted and even expendable.
"And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" – Mary is the mother of Jesus. But how would it be if we saw each other as "the brother of my Lord," or "the sister of my Lord?" Would we treat each other a little differently?
"Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." – Just as it may be difficult to remember that we are blessed, it can be hard to see the fulfillment of God’s promises to us. And yet, in a very short while, we are going to celebrate the birth of the One who lived, suffered and died, and rose from the dead in order to free us from the power of sin and death, and give us the promise of everlasting life! In the midst of everything, we can still put our trust in God! The One who transformed a symbol of destruction into a sign of victory can do marvelous things in and through us!
As we get closer to Christmas, may we continue to make room for the One who has blessed us.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.