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Friday, 18 December 2015

Reflection/Homily: Fourth (4th) Sunday of Advent Year C (December 20 2015)

Theme: The Joy of the Visitation

Last Sunday traditionally known as the “Gaudate Sunday”, we were invited to rejoice for the Lord is in our midst. In today’s readings, we see in concrete terms, a manifestation of that joy, the joy that comes from the presence of the Lord. This joy is the reason for today’s visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. This joy was first prophesied by the prophet Micah in the first reading (Micah 5:1-4). He delivered a message that brought great joy to all who heard it. It was a message of hope and of deliverance concerning the One who is to be born in Bethlehem and who will bring in the day of peace when all nations will look to Jerusalem.  He will be great and will rule over the people with power and majesty and He himself will be peace.

In the Gospel reading (Luke 1:39-44), we see the fulfillment of this prophecy in the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth after the message of the Angel to Mary in Luke 1:26-38. Mary accepted the message of the Angel with great joy and when she was told that her cousin Elizabeth was already six months pregnant. With joy, she hurried off to meet her. Mary must have gone to share the Good News that she received from the Angel with her cousin Elizabeth, to witness God’s goodness in the life of Elizabeth whom people call barren, to share in her joy and finally, to offer her some assistance until she put to bed. That was why she spent her first trimester there in humble service to Elizabeth. 

However, today, the Church invites us to share in the joy of the Visitation, a joy that was conceived alone but fulfilled in communion with the other. Mary and Elizabeth conceived this joy in their unique but similar circumstances, they extended this joy to the other and were fulfilled. What then can we learn from Mary and Elizabeth during this period of Christmas?

Mary, the Ark of the new covenant had Christ hidden in her but she had to make Him visible in her attitude towards Elizabeth and as the Ark brought joy to the household where it was kept for three months, Mary also brought joy to Elizabeth whom she stayed with for three months (cf.2 Samuel 6). As Christ left His exalted position in heaven and came down to earth to save us, Mary also left her exalted position as the Mother of God and went down to see Elizabeth and help her. This is an invitation to make Christ visible in all our actions within this season and beyond. We should descend from our lofty thrones and identify with the poor and the weak. We should let others especially those we are better than experience and share in the joy the Lord has caused us.

Elizabeth on her own part through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit recognized the Messiah in Mary’s womb and went ahead to praise her. Her praises form part of the Hail Mary. Even the child in her womb rejoiced on hearing her voice. This is an invitation to rejoice with those who are favoured by God. Our society today witnesses a lot of jealousy and envy among the people of God. We are called to eschew such vices among us and celebrate with those who find favour in God’s sight. 

Besides, Mary being equally pregnant and needed to be cared for went ahead to sacrifice her time and energy in caring for Elizabeth and attending to her domestic needs. By her sacrifice, Elizabeth was relieved of stress and anxiety. As Christians and imitators of Mary, we are also invited to sacrifice for the good of the other. As the second reading (Hebrews 10:5-10) presents to us the image of Christ who offered a single and entire sacrifice to make us holy, we should also be ready to  sacrifice our time, our talents and even our resources to make others happy especially during this Christmas. We can do this by travelling to our native lands to visit our aged parents/grandparents or by doing some domestic works for that old widow who lives nearby or by extending a gift to a friend or relative.

Therefore, beloved friends, the Lord is in our midst. He has come to save us and we have to rejoice. We should not rejoice alone but also allow those around us to share in our joy not by bragging over what God has done for us but by our gentle and humble charitable services to others. As Christians, the work of God’s grace among us should draw us together into the bonds of divine love which should be devoid of every jealousy and envy but should help us appreciate the good that happens to the other. Merry Christmas in advance. God loves you.

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