Fourth Sunday of Advent
Micah 5:1-4a, Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19, Hebrews 10:5-10, & Luke 1:39-45
On this last Sunday before Christmas, our Gospel narrative prepares us to witness Christ's birth by showing us how Jesus was recognized as Israel's long-awaited Messiah, even before His actual birth. Saint Luke turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist to the events that preceded John's birth. The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth, and Zechariah are reported only in Luke's Gospel. Luke pairs the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, establishing John's early connection to the Messiah.
The Gospel reading recalls Mary's actions after the announcement of Jesus' birth by the angel Gabriel. Mary decides to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, also expecting a child. Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles that they and their unborn children will play in God's plan for salvation. If we were to continue to read the verses that follow in Luke's narrative, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth's greeting with her song of praise, the Magnificat. Both women recall and echo God's history of showing favor upon the people of Israel.
Saint Luke describes how the Holy Spirit helps reveal Jesus' identity as God to those who believe. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and sings Mary's praise because she carries the Lord in her womb. We sing these words of praise to Mary in the Hail Mary. Even John, the unborn child in Elizabeth's womb, is said to recognize the presence of the Lord and leaps for joy.
Dear friends, it is appropriate in this season of Advent that we consider the role of Mary in God's plan of salvation. Elizabeth describes Mary as the first disciple, as the one who believed that God's Word to her would be fulfilled. Mary's faith enabled her to recognize the work of God in her people's history and her own life. Her openness to God allowed God to work through her so that salvation might come to everyone. As a result, Mary, our Blessed Mother, is a model and symbol of the Church. May we be like Mary, open and cooperative in God's plan for salvation.
Question of the Day: How will you "leap for joy" as the baby Jesus enters your home on Christmas morning?"
Prayer: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your Word."