My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We are coming to the end of this Advent season of preparation for Christmas. And as always, it goes quick. I can see the Christmas trees getting ready and we have a nativity scene over there, so it’s coming, just in a few days.
And our readings today from Sacred Scripture, invite us to reflect on the birth of Jesus and God’s plan of salvation.
As we see in our readings today — God’s plan for salvation is a “family plan.”
God redeems the world, and he brings salvation to each one of us, through a Mother and a Child, through a family.
So in the first reading today, we hear this great prophecy of the prophet Micah. And in this prophecy, God is talking to the families of Israel — to the people of Judah who are living in Bethlehem. And he promises that a child will be born who will be a ruler, a shepherd, a King. The prophet says:
When she who is to give birth has borne ...
he rest of his kindred shall return
to the children of Israel.
Of course the prophet is looking forward to our Blessed Mother Mary and the birth of Jesus Christ. And this prophecy, of the Mother and the Child that we hear in this first reading — is a prophecy of mercy.
And as we know, my dear brothers and sisters, this prophecy is fulfilled at Christmas. So this history of salvation, is history of mercy.
Christmas, which we await, is the great feast of mercy — the great sign of God’s love for the world and for each one of us.
It is family history and also, mercy — history of mercy, God’s love for each one of us.
And as we know, Pope Francis has declared this year to be a Jubilee Year of Mercy — a time for all of us to rediscover the mercy of God. His mercy in our lives, in our world, in history.
So I think it’s important for all of us, as we come closer to Christmas, to really reflect what Christmas is all about. It’s about family and it’s about mercy, God’s love for us.
And in our Gospel today, again, we hear a beautiful family story. It’s the story of two women — each of them expecting a baby, Mary our Blessed Mother and St. Elizabeth. Each of them anticipating with joy in her heart what it will be like to become a mother for the very first time.
It is a very human, very natural scene. Something many women have felt in their own life, this joy of being a new mother.
But there is something else at work here! In this scene in the Gospel today, we have all the beauty of Advent reflected! Two women filled with joy as they wait for God’s promise to be fulfilled.
This is what Advent is all about. This is what we are all doing during these four short weeks of Advent. Waiting for Jesus. Waiting for the Father’s gift to come into our world, the gift of his only Son.
So in Advent, we are waiting like St. Elizabeth in the Gospel today. And like St. Elizabeth we are waiting to experience the joy of finding Jesus in our lives.
We heard those beautiful words from Elizabeth, words that we remember every time we pray the “Hail Mary.”
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And then she goes and says,
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
This is the joy we are waiting for at Christmas, again, the joy of finding Jesus.
When Mary comes into the room, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. The baby in her womb leaps for joy! This is because she realizes that she is in the presence of Jesus!
I think the point that we need to reflect on and we have to learn from in this beautiful scene of the Gospel, is that St. Elizabeth was able to recognize Jesus Christ because herheart was open to receive God. She was able to recognize Jesus because she was looking for him — and she was expecting to find him.
And this is the way we should be living today. Every day, in every moment, we need to be open to the grace of God, to the presence of God.
So the question for us today, the first question is: if we are really open to the grace of God?
We are. That’s why we are here. Isn’t it true that we can ask God for his grace to be always open to receive him in our lives.
We need to look for signs of his love, listening for his voice, his guidance. This is the grace we are praying for in Advent — the grace to become aware of God’s blessings in our lives.
In the good times and in the challenging times. To understand that God is always there with us and for us. So that’s probably one of the lessons that we can learn today — the first lesson — from St. Elizabeth.
And then if we look at Mary our Blessed Mother, isn’t it true that we have to have a heart like hers?
A heart of service and love. The heart of a missionary disciple.
In the second reading of today’s Mass, we heard St. Paul offer us a beautiful description of Mary’s attitude. St. Paul gives us these beautiful words: “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”
This is a picture of the life of Mary our Blessed Mother. This is how she approached her life. When the Angel spoke to her and told her that she was going to be the Mother of Jesus, she said, “Be it done to me according to your Word.”
And my brothers and sisters, this is how we are called to live as Christians.
We need to do whatever it is that God is asking us to do, with gratitude and joy, with a real desire to do God’s will, to help his plan of salvation. All for Jesus. Even the little things we do every day — we should offer everything for Jesus.
And that’s the example of Mary our Blessed Mother.
Mary was filled with so much joy, such a desire to share Jesus! This is why she rushed to be with St. Elizabeth. Mary had such a desire to share Jesus, to bring of the joy Jesus into Elizabeth’s life.
And that’s the way we should be — that’s why we are called to be missionary disciples! Mary, then, is the model for our life of faith, for our life as disciples.
So two beautiful reflections today — opening our hearts to the presence of God in our lives, following the example of St. Elizabeth and always willing to do God’s will just as Mary did.
So today. we ask the intercession of Mary our Blessed Mother, to give all of us a servant’s heart as she had. To make all of us missionary disciples. Bringing Jesus to others. Helping other people to find God in their lives — doing this in our daily life again, in our homes, at work, in our society.
So these last days of Advent, let us joyfully expect the coming of Jesus on Christmas Day, grateful for God’s mercy and excited about becoming merciful as God our Father is merciful with us.
1. Readings (Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C): Mic. 5:1-4; Ps. 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; Heb. 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45.