Homily for the fourth Sunday of Advent - Year C - Lk. 1:39-45
Father Daniel Meynen
"In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.' "
"In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth."
On this fourth Sunday of Advent 2000, which also happens to be the day before Christmas, the Church proposes to us a reading from the Gospel which recounts the visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. This visit took place a short time after the Incarnation of the Word of God in Mary. Moreover, it was the Angel Gabriel who, in a way, invited Mary to go visit her cousin, who was already six months pregnant at the time: "Your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren." (Lk. 1:36) So Mary set off in haste to go and help Elizabeth during the last months of her pregnancy.
Mary had just conceived, through the action of the Holy Spirit, a son: the very Son of God, Jesus. When she arrived at the home of her cousin Elizabeth, Mary was thus in this period of preparation for the coming of the Son of God into the world: she prepares for her mission, that of the Mother of God, that mission which consists in bringing into the world a child who is God in person! For her this preparation will be a support and a consolation. Although Mary's faith is without equal, one that is absolutely unique, it is nevertheless necessary for her to be comforted and supported by those close to her: for Mary is, above all, the model of the Church, the model that each and every believer must contemplate in order to try to imitate her. Now, although our faith is, unfortunately, not like that of Mary, we too need to be supported and comforted in our mission as apostles of the Word of God. So if we have a mission to carry out (and every Christian does!), may Mary send us Gabriels and Elizabeths to guide us and support us in our daily work!
"And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."
The perfect generosity of Mary is immediately rewarded by an action of the Holy Spirit! Mary, when she agreed to become the Mother of Jesus the Son of God, also became, first, the Wife of the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Holy Trinity lives in Mary in a very particular manner, one that is unique and that belongs only to the Mother of God - for any marriage is unique. Of course, the Holy Spirit rests first, and above all, upon Jesus Christ. But here it is truly the voice of Mary that is the instrument used by the Holy Spirit to sanctify Elizabeth and her son John the Baptist: "When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary... "
In our everyday life, we rarely if ever see things like this. But does not the Lord give us other signs now and then to make us aware of his presence in us and of his action, working through our poor attempts at faith in the mission he entrusted to us? Did he not place on our path a certain person, such as a teacher or professor, a priest or nun, a friend or relative, who, at a particular moment, or over an extended period of time, brought us something that we can now see to have been very useful, or even indispensable, to our Christian life? The Holy Spirit who is in us through our baptism and our confirmation in the faith, and perhaps even through the sacrament of the diaconate or priesthood, will help us to see everything with the eyes of faith: for he is there to help us to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God!
"She exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.' "
Elizabeth's entire discourse is a glorification of Mary! God takes pleasure in rewarding his faithful servants. Mary humbled herself in her obedience and in her faith in the Word of God: she is now glorified by her own relative Elizabeth! But the glory of Mary is not her own. No, it belongs to God himself! Mary is never honored apart from Jesus Son of God: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Mary is glorified because she is the Mother of God!
For Mary, this is an important stage. Before bringing her Son Jesus into the world, Mary receives from her own family a glorification without equal! Before the Son of God comes into the world for the first time, a named woman Mary, she whom God chose from all eternity to be the Mother of the Savior, is glorified and praised for having served as an instrument of the very Word of God: "When the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy."
Is this not a sign for we who are alive now and who await, after nearly two thousand years, the second coming of the Lord Jesus? Is it not necessary for Mary to be glorified and praised once again by her own family - the Church - before the return of the Savior of the world? So why are we waiting to acclaim Mary and to proclaim her wonders in our life? For, let us not forget, we do not know when the Lord will come. So, should we risk running out of time, not having sufficiently glorified Mary for all she has done for us on this earth?
"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.' "
Mary believed! The Lord will be born of a Virgin of Nazareth! The archangel Gabriel clearly announced this to Mary, and she, by the grace of God, believed "what was spoken to her from the Lord!" There is not, and there will never again be, a great wonder, a deeper mystery than this! Elizabeth was able to express this Mystery thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit who was in her, but Elizabeth never truly understood what it was realizing. Only God, the Holy Spirit, as well as Mary in God, in the Holy Spirit her Husband, understood it. This is the Mystery we contemplate each year in the Nativity creche...