Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

Today’s account of the spiritual bond between Mary and Elizabeth invites us to have faith in divine promises and to be open to becoming channels of the same promises. In the First Reading, the Lord promises that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. And in the Gospel, as soon as Mary learns that she would be the vessel to deliver the ultimate promise of God, she hurries off to share the joy with Elizabeth. An authentic faith is one that leads to action. Mary strongly believed that “the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45), and it was this that inspired her to visit Elizabeth as soon as the angel left her. She did not seek a celebrity status for herself as the mother of God for personal gain, but rather placed herself at the service of another – her faith was proved by her good works.
Today’s celebrity mums grant “exclusive interviews” for money and sell photos of their new babies for big cash. Imagine that Mary was one of them and how much she would make for carrying God’s own baby. Had that been the case, salvation would have been for the highest bidder, beyond the reach of most of us. Nevertheless, 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). For her it is a call to service and solidarity, and this inspires her to visit with Elizabeth for three months, strengthening their spiritual bond 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. Instead, she lived ordinarily all through her earthly life. Her special rewards only materialized when she was assumed body and soul into heaven, where she now reigns with her Son.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord invites us today to believe in his promises and to let that faith inspire us towards self-giving discipleship. Faith is crucial because, as John Maxwell said: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.” Many people in our society today, having no faith and no hope, are 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! However, in the middle of all the pains and woes of everyday life, it is 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. He is 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 and 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 our Lord is like that lake. He is our great oasis of hope and divine warmth. He is the faithful and 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 middle of the 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 our faith in action this Christmas would be to remember and pray for those friends and family members that we don’t get along very well with; those we don’t like, 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 whether we could rise above our past hurts and resentments to extend a hand of Christian fellowship to such people. When tensions begin to build, let us remember to turn to Jesus for strength, even if that would mean that we get 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!
Therefore, as we start the final countdown to Christmas, let us pray for the grace to open our hearts for the light of Christ to shine through to those we encounter during 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!