On this last Sunday of Advent, we are invited to learn from the spiritual bond between Mary and Elizabeth. We are called to believe in divine promises, and to act on that faith by becoming channels of the joy flowing from it. In the First Reading, the Lord promises Bethlehem that out of it will come the Messiah. And in the Gospel, as soon as Mary learns that the promise would materialize through her, she hurries off to share the joy with Elizabeth. Authentic faith always leads to action! Mary is “the one who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). And it was her faith in this promise that inspired her to quickly reach out to Elizabeth. She could have chosen to use her privileged position as the mother of God for personal gain, but rather she places herself completely at the service of another and, thus, proved her faith with good works.
Today’s celebrity mums turn their pregnancies into huge commercial ventures. They grant “exclusive interviews” for money, and they sell photos of their new babies for big cash. Imagine Mary being one of today’s celebrities and how much she would stand to make for carrying the baby of babies – the Son of God. Had that been the case, salvation would have been for the highest bidder, beyond the reach of most of us. How many times have we seen on television people camping all night outside a store to be the first to buy a new mobile device, or to get tickets for a new movie? Thankfully, the salvation drama, infinitely greater than any blockbuster movie, is absolutely free. Scripture is clear that, “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
In any case, Mary is different; she sees her divine motherhood as a fulfillment of the promises made “to Abraham and to his posterity forever” (Luke 1:55). She also sees it as a call to service and solidarity, and this inspires her to visit with Elizabeth for three months, relishing their sisterly companionship and mutual support as they both celebrate the fruition of divine promises in their lives. Mary never sought preferential treatment for being the mother of God, but rather she lived ordinarily all through her earthly life. Her special rewards only kicked in when she was assumed body and soul into heaven, where she now reigns with her Son.
Brothers and sisters, we need to have faith in divine promises, and to let that faith inspire us to be self-giving. Faith is crucial because as John Maxwell said: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.” Many today have no faith and no hope – living for nothing but consumerism and excessive pleasure inspired by the glamour of vanity. But we know that there is a better way, tested, proved, signed and sealed, and ready for whoever wants it. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life! But amidst the pains and woes of life, it’s easy to lose sight of this. We are so bruised and broken by life’s hurts, by memories of being let down by those we trusted, and by the failure to keep our own promises, so much that our hearts are cold and coarse.
Nevertheless, our God remains faithful, our help in ages past and hope for the years to come. Time and again he never fails to find ways of opening our eyes to the reality of his love and commitment to us. Some years ago, explorers in Alaska (United States) discovered far back in the mountains a lake whose waters were always warm. Even in the coldest winter months, you could catch plenty of fish there, because the water was always warm, cozy enough to swim in. This strange lake is hundreds of kilometres from the ocean, but somehow, some underground channel is constantly feeding it and keeping it warm. It creates a real oasis of warmth and life amid the desolation of arctic winter. Jesus Christ is like that lake – our great oasis of hope and divine warmth. He is the faithful, perfect embodiment of the Father’s promises. No matter what happens, his love never wavers, his mercy never tires, and his steadfastness never shakes. Like the warm lake in the midst of arctic ice, the Heart of Christ, burning with love, is always there to embrace and sustain us.
Today, therefore, let us faithfully hold on to the promises of the Lord . And, spurred by that faith, let us reach out to others as Mary did. We are called to a communion of faith, to let the impact of divine grace be felt in our lives. We are called to identify with the struggles of the lonely, the poor and the needy, especially those who have no way of paying us back. One practical way to show solidarity this Christmas would be to remember and pray for those friends and family members that we don’t get along very well with; those who don’t like us, those who treat us unkindly, or those who have wounded us in the past. Chances are we will meet them again this Christmas but the challenge will be for us to rise above past hurts and resentments and extend a hand of Christian fellowship to them. When tensions begin to build, let us remember to turn to Jesus for strength, even if that would mean us getting crucified at Christmas time. Even to those that we won’t be seeing this time, let us find the courage to make that phone call, or send that letter or Christmas card or text message. This is a most crucial challenge for each one of us!
As we start the final countdown to Christmas, let us pray for the generosity to open our hearts for the light of Christ to shine through to those we come in contact with this festive season. May the Father of mercies open our eyes to see his Son’s face in each other and may our hearts leap with joy at the sight of our brothers and sisters this Christmas. Amen!
Readings: Micah 5:1-4; Psalms 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45