December 17, 2021.

Last week we celebrated Gaudete Sunday when the Church encouraged us to rejoice because our Lord is near. On this fourth and last Sunday of Advent, our first Reading and Gospel have one thing in common: that we need faith, obedience and humility to recognize how God is at work in our lives.

Today’s Readings prepare us for the upcoming Feast of Christmas by bringing together the major themes of the first three Sundays of Advent, namely, promise, repentance, transformation and joy. They remind us that the mystery of the Incarnation comes to ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the openness to do God’s will and the willingness to respond to God’s call.

Today’s Readings suggest that we should not celebrate Christmas as just an occasion for nice feelings. Instead, commemorating Jesus’ birth should inspire us to carry out God’s word as Mary and Jesus did, in perfect, loving obedience to his will, with the cheerful kindness and unselfish generosity that will help make us true disciples.

In the first Reading, the Prophet Micah insists that God chooses what is humanly insignificant and unpromising to bring about his own loving purposes. Micah gives assurance to the Jews that God is faithful to his promises, and that from the unimportant village of Bethlehem, he will send them the long-expected ruler. He will restore order and harmony in the world by practicing and teaching submission to the will of God, “God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.”

In the light of the first Reading, this may be said to refer appropriately to Jesus Christ. Thus, we put ourselves in the position of ancient Israel waiting for the coming of the Messiah as we wait for the celebration of his coming at Christmas.

The second Reading, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, reminds us that it is the Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus Christ, who has offered the perfect sacrifice of loving obedience that liberates mankind from sin. The Reading portrays the Son of God as accepting a human body, the true Christmas theme. It also gives the profound reason Jesus came into the world: “Behold, I come to do Your will.” By a willing, loving eagerness to do God’s will, Christ offered himself, replacing all the other ritual sacrifices and becoming the sole means of mankind’s sanctification. This Reading reminds us that God, like any loving parent, wants us to do his will – for our good, not his.

In the Gospel, Luke tells us how two seemingly insignificant women met to celebrate the kindness and fidelity of God. We see how sensitive Mary was to the needs of Elizabeth, her older cousin, who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age. For Luke, discipleship consists in listening to God’s word and then carrying it out, and Mary does both, to become the most perfect disciple. Through Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, she displayed her hospitality, generosity, humility, and her love. This is why she is blessed.

The Church advises us that we need to carry Jesus to others as Mary did, and we can make a real difference to their lives by inviting them to know Jesus. However, we cannot give what we do not possess. Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing his rebirth within us. Thus, Jesus enables us to share his love with all whom we encounter by offering them a humble, loving, committed service, unconditional forgiveness, and compassionate care. Sharing Jesus with others is the best Christmas gift we can give. God wants each of us, like Mary, to carry to those around us the Lord of Life.

It is easy to send flowers, Christmas cards or gifts. To give the gift of oneself, however, is the greatest gift of all. Let us take the time to visit others this Christmas, to bring some inspiration into their lives and, hopefully, to bring them closer to God. Let us share with them the Spirit of God, the Spirit of consolation, of courage, of peace, and of joy, just as Mary did. During the Christmas Season, God calls us into action as he did Mary. Is there anyone we know who is lonely, in a nursing home, ill, or bedridden? Can we help them with a brief visit? Is there extra food in our pantry that a poor family could use?

We need to recognize the real presence of the Emmanuel, (God Is With Us), and say “yes” to him for the Visitation of Mary reminds us that Christ continues to be present among his people. Christ “dwells among us,” exercising his Holy Ministry through our Ministerial Priests and Deacons, the Bible, the Sacraments, and in each of us in the praying community. The hill country of Judea is right here in our sanctuary. The same Jesus who dwelt in Mary’s womb and caused John to leap in Elizabeth’s womb now dwells among us in our liturgy and in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus has come! He lives with us and in us and through us, as we live through, with, and in him, by the Holy Spirit. What is expected of us during this Christmas week is the readiness to say “Yes!” to the Father, “Yes!” to Jesus, “Yes!” to the Holy Spirit, accepting everything that we will experience in the coming year as his gift and grace and “Yes!” to every call that God makes on us.

Mary’s pilgrimage should be our model for as we journey with Mary to the hill country, let us continue to contemplate our own life’s journey — its joys and sorrows, its triumphs and its tragedies. Our Christian journey began in Christ at the Baptismal font where he joined himself to us forever. Our journey continues through Christ as he nourishes us along the way with the Food of his Word and the Food of his Flesh in the Eucharist. It will end with Christ as we await our blessed end and join him and all his Saints in Heavenly splendor. It is up to us to prepare for that great day by spending our lives glorifying God in serving others with love and commitment.

Fr. Jude, CSSp

Designed by Toffy Digital