Fourth Sunday of Advent
For our Gospel reading for today, we have the account of the Visitation, when Mary visits her relative Elizabeth. We see here one of the most exuberant sharing of joy we find in all of Scriptures. Mary has found out from the angel Gabriel great news, not only about herself and the world, but also about Elizabeth, who was thought to be barren and too old to have a baby, but is now six months pregnant. Luke tells us that Mary goes “in haste” to make the visit.
When the two see each other, there is such joy! In fact, when Elizabeth hears Mary say words of greeting, the infant in her womb leaps for joy. And Elizabeth, filled with the Spirit, says two things which are important to remember as we near the end of Advent and enter into the mystery of Christmas.
One thing Elizabeth says is, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” We could ask ourselves, “How does this happen to me, that my Lord should come to me? That He should become like me, in order to save me?” We know the answer to that is God’s love for us. But we also know that we can’t even begin to understand the immensity of that love. If we are open to it, this can fill us with wonder and gratitude.
Which leads us to another thing that Elizabeth says to Mary: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Blessed are we who believe that what has been spoken to us will be fulfilled for us, and in us, and through us. Can we believe that God is for us? That God does not seek our destruction but our healing and redemption? That the promise that is Christmas has been fulfilled for us in Jesus Christ and will come to complete fulfillment in the coming of the kingdom? As we near the end of Advent, , we may reflect on how we can be ambassadors so that others can believe that what has been spoken to them will be fulfilled. I think a good way for that is to go back to the words of Elizabeth: “and how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” How would our Advent and Christmas and New Year be if every time we encountered someone we would wonder, “How does this happen to me, that the brother or sister of my Lord should come to me?” Is not making room for Jesus inextricably linked to making room for our sisters or brothers?
May we be filled with wonder and joy as we contemplate the coming of Jesus, and share that joy with the sisters and brothers we have in the Lord.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.