Fourth Sunday of Advent | December 20, 2020

In the Gospel today, St. Luke describes the Annunciation and alludes to the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Both women provide us with an example of faith, hope, love, patience and wonder – the virtues we must practice and share if we are to immerse ourselves in what awaits us – Christmas – The Birth of our Lord.

At the Annunciation, the first thing that the angel Gabriel says to Mary is do not be afraid. But why shouldn’t she be afraid? Why shouldn’t we be afraid of giving ourselves to Jesus? Our Blessed Mother is a young woman not yet married and it would have been impossible for her to fully comprehend what was happening. But she isn’t afraid because she believes she has found favor with God. We have too through the life, death and Resurrection of His Son! Do we believe and act accordingly?

Mary’s confidence that she has found favor with God gives her the grace and strength to respond with faith to the angel Gabriel’s announcement with the words: Be it done unto me according to thy will – that she was to conceive through the power of the Holy Spirit and bear a Son called Jesus:

“He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  

It’s quite beautiful that after Mary’s acceptance of being the Mother of our Savior, she immediately goes to her cousin Elizabeth to help her and to share with her the joy of the Lord and the joy of their pregnancies.

Elizabeth greets Mary and her Savior with part of the beautiful prayer we are all familiar with: Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. She says this when she felt her son, John the Baptist, (the greatest prophet who would prepare the way for Jesus) leap for joy in her womb at the presence of our Lord and his Blessed Mother.  

The stirring from within that Elizabeth felt was much more than her child kicking in her womb, they were the stirrings of faith, and the movement of the Holy Spirit who would bring about the birth of our Lord through the generous consent of Mary.

Elizabeth natural human response was one of joy and gratitude that our Savior and Blessed Mother should come to her. But there is also the deeper sense that Elizabeth recognizes God is present not only in what is happening around her but also what is happening to her – A reminder that we must be able to see God at work around us and in us. 

With the celebration of Christmas only days away, we have an opportunity to look inward and an invitation to pray, to open our hearts and minds to the working of the Holy Spirit, like Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth. The readings today remind us that God is faithful to His covenant, he loves us, His Spirit dwells within us, and our Savior is close at hand.

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

fr. Brendan Murphy, O.P.