As we approach the birthday of our Savior Jesus Christ, today’s readings give us a clear prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, explain to us the great gift of redemption which Christ was sent into the world to accomplish, and show us how his mission had already begun while he was still in the womb. Like the Wise Men who followed the star, we can follow the light of these Advent readings, pondering them in our hearts and minds, as we journey toward the Christ Child soon to be born into our world.
The Gospel takes us into the hill country where Mary in her joy has journeyed “in haste” to be with her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth is pregnant in her elder years with John the Baptist, the one who will go before Jesus to announce the coming of the Messiah. The encounter is both a natural and a supernatural event! When she first hears Mary’s voice, Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit” cries out to Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Before the two women even have much time to speak together, a deep understanding of hidden mysteries fills Elizabeth’s heart. We hear her express in her first words a sense of the divine nature of the Child in Mary’s womb, and of the divine maternity of Mary herself.
It is not only Elizabeth who supernaturally recognizes who has come. Her unborn child is also filled with the Spirit and leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting. John leaps for joy because God has made him the herald, the one who will announce the coming of Jesus; this is his God-given mission in life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, he knows by intuition that the Messiah has come, carried under the heart of Mary.
What a joyful and Spirit-filled meeting of these four individuals, all fulfilling the roles that God has ordained for them. Mary’s “yes” to the will of God is the gateway through which the Son of God comes into the world, and Elizabeth’s acceptance of the will of God allows her son to prepare the way of the Lord. Like them, we too have each been given an opportunity to fulfill our own unique, God-given mission. It requires our “yes,” our aligning of our will to the will of God to do our part of his plan of salvation.
As the preborn John the Baptist recognizes the preborn Jesus, Elizabeth recognizes that Mary is indeed doing her part in God’s plan, for she says, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” She acknowledges Mary’s belief and trust in the Lord. Like Elizabeth, we acknowledge and honor Mary’s sacred journey of faith, which serves as a model for us. In our own journey of faith, we find it hard to accept what we cannot fully understand. Mary too did not understand everything, but she went forth in haste anyway, guided by faith. Her faith gives us faith, her courage gives us courage, so that we too can make haste to fulfill the will of the Lord in our lives.
The action of grace in the secret of the womb reminds us that God often works in small and hidden ways. The prophet Micah had a sense of this as he spoke to the “little town of Bethlehem,” which was too small to be given much consideration by the world. Micah speaks a word of trust and hope, assuring the people that from them will come the Messiah. From this small and humble place will come a ruler “whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.” The prophet does not know when the Messiah will come, but he knows that he will come. Here we see the timelessness of God’s plan, and realize that each of us, small and hidden, has a part to play in the unfolding of that plan.
Our faith teaches us that Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of God’s plan for our redemption. As we learn from the Letter to the Hebrews, the sacrifices under the Old Covenant could not take away sins. Only the “once for all” sacrifice of Jesus could win for us our redemption. Everything in God’s plan hinges on the Incarnation. Everything points to the coming of Jesus. Tomorrow night we will celebrate his birth. Through Mary’s “yes,” the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. Through our “yes,” he enters our personal world. Let us follow the example of the Blessed Mother’s trust and faith, and carry Jesus into the world through our love for him and for others.
In what subtle ways do I say no to Jesus in my daily life? How can I align my will to the will of God? What is my response when faced with the mystery of God’s will for me?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 15, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.