HOMILY: FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2018
Today’s Gospel presents us with the Mystery we have probably pondered many times: the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: the Visitation – Our Lady visiting her cousin Elizabeth.
This Mystery is essentially a Mystery of Joy: John the Baptist exults with joy in the womb of St Elizabeth; St Elizabeth, rejoicing in the gift of motherhood, pours out praises to the Lord; Mary sings the Magnificat, a hymn overflowing with Messianic joy.
What is clear, as we ponder this Mystery, is that both women, Elizabeth and Mary, discover extraordinary hidden depths in each other. Mary has made the long journey from Nazareth to the hill country of Judaea, on hearing that her elderly, childless cousin is expecting. It is a simple act of kindness –we might see it as something of a ‘corporal act of mercy’. Mary does this act of kindness to show Elizabeth how much she means to her. And Elizabeth responds with equal generosity, recognising how honoured she is, how much Mary’s visit means to her: ‘Why should I be honoured with a visit from the Mother of my Lord?’
As the story unfolds, the two women come to see each other in an entirely new light. They are caught up in a profound, shared joy. They realise they are being taken up into – or, rather, that they are already fulfilling – God’s loving purposes.
In our own lives, in our everyday dealings with each other, in ordinary acts of kindness and sympathy, it is possible for us sometimes to find our eyes opened to see the other person – and ourself – in a new light. And sometimes it can dawn on us that maybe in very small ways we are being touched by God and used by God to forward his loving purposes.
Some words of the great spiritual writer and liturgist, Romano Guardini, confirm that it is right for us to hope that God may be using us in this way: ‘God works and grows within us, takes possession of our being, draws our strength towards himself.’
As we celebrate Christmas, may we be assured of God’s closeness to us; and may we know, like Our Lady and St Elizabeth, the joy that springs from recognising each others’ worth and, as we do that, find ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, sharing in the Lord’s loving purposes.