THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Today’s Gospel story is a beautiful one. When the angel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child, she was given a way to confirm that message: to go visit her “kinswoman who has also conceived in her old age.” (Lk. 1:36) . . . .
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“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?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
Our Scripture scholar friend William Barclay says, this story of Mary’s visit is “a kind of lyrical song on the blessedness of Mary. Nowhere can we see the paradox of blessedness than in her life. To Mary was granted the blessedness of being the mother of the Son of God. Well might her heart be filled with a wondering, tremulous joy at so great a privilege. Yet that very blessedness was to be a sword to pierce her heart. It meant that some day she would see her son hanging on a cross.
“To be chosen by God so often means at one and the same to me a crown of joy and a crown of sorrow. The truth is that God does not choose a person for ease and comfort and selfish joy but for a task. God chooses us to use us.” (Barclay / Luke p. 17.)
I know. When I was a young priest I threw myself into my work helping our new diocese develop the good liturgy, faithful to the guidelines of Constitution on the Liturgy that just given us the “New Mass.” This was the early Seventies. I was enthusiastic about this work. I was initially happy. But it became overwhelming for me. I became a workaholic and then an alcoholic. And in a few years, in 1978, I had a breakdown, eventually diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder that brought limitations to my priesthood that at times have been difficult to accept.
The prayer of Reinhold Neihbuhr and Alcoholics Anonymous is still by far the best prayer and advice in this regard:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
And now back to Mary and my prayer to her this Sunday . . . .
what courage you had for a young girl!
You travelled to visit Elizabeth;
they said she was your cousin.
What did you want to know?
But you found a surprise, didn’t you?
They baby in her womb leaped for joy.
There was your confirmation.
Mary, so often I need, I want confirmation
for the decision I have to make.
You believed that the word that was spoken
to you would be fulfilled.
Mary, Jesus, help to have that kind faith,
that kind of trust.
I praise and thank you, dear Lady
for bringing Love into our world.
And now before you go, here’s the ancient Christmas carol “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming” with a slide show. Click here.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.
Acknowledgment: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke
Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville KY / 1975, 2001