The Light of Christ has come into the world

Monday, December 24, 2018

(Lec. 200)

1)         2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

2)         Luke 1:67-79

Gospel related: CCC422, 523, 706, 717

 FOCUS:    The Light of Christ has come into the world to illuminate our darkness.

 Today concludes the fourth week of Advent. We have been waiting and preparing for the celebration of the birth of our Savior and his coming at the end of time. These days of preparation may have brought us a mixture of joyful moments, and possibly some difficulties as well. Life can be like that. Yet we still have much for which to be thankful. Our Advent waiting may be compared to a time of pregnancy; a time of joy and longing, yet one which can hold the potential for suffering and pain. We may even begin to wonder if our waiting for our Savior will ever end.

 

The fact is that joy and suffering are necessary ingredients in our preparation to welcome the Savior of the World into our hearts. We are not alone if we think that we have difficulty preparing to receive Emmanuel, “God with us,” into our lives Advent after Advent.

In our first reading, King David stumbles in his efforts to prepare a place for God in his life. He is a great king, and he assumes that he knows what God needs. God disagrees. David thinks he should build a house for God that is equal to or better than his new palace of cedar. God thinks differently. God instead recalls for David the marvelous deeds that God has and will bring about. It was God who did everything for David – taking him from the pasture and making him king. God reminds him of his promises to provide for David’s prosperity with a homeland, as well as protection from their enemies. God wants David to realize that everything that he is and all that he has accomplished is the result of God’s initiative, not David’s.

 

In our Gospel reading today, Zechariah does just the opposite of David, as we see. He sings a song of praise to God – not only for the gift of his newborn son, John – but for all that God has done in faithfulness to the covenant with Abraham and his descendants. As we look to the birth of our Savior and to the unfolding of the Christmas season, we, too, have the opportunity to remember all that God has accomplished in our lives. The Canticle of Zechariah can be our song of preparation as we wait these final few hours for the coming of our Savior, both now and at the end of time. His song can help bring our Advent to a fruitful close just as it does in today’s Gospel passage.

 BLESSED IS SHE WHO BELIEVED

Today’s Gospel brings us to the threshold of Jesus’ birth. Presuming our knowledge of the Annunciation to Mary, it describes the meeting between Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth. In this ‘Visitation’ story the two women share their remarkable experience, and faith overflows in new insight, knowledge and celebration.

Mary has surrendered in faith to the extraordinary role that Gabriel has announced to her. In faith, too, she has obeyed the angel’s additional command to go and seek out the ‘sign’ consisting in the pregnancy of her elderly cousin. Biblical faith does not presuppose signs already given; it acts, goes on its journey, and then discovers confirmatory signs. This is how Elizabeth’s pregnancy functions for Mary. The lesser wonder brought about God’s power (the conception of a child to parents of advanced years) confirms her faith in the far greater marvel: that with God’’s Spirit taking the role of male parent she is to become the mother of her people’s Messiah.

As soon as she hears Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth experiences within her womb the infant John leaping with joy. Already he is beginning his role of pointing to the Messiah. Hence Elizabeth confirms what Mary has hitherto simply believed: that she is indeed pregnant with the Messiah whose role and destiny Gabriel had announced.

Elizabeth insists that Mary is ‘blessed’, not simply because she is ‘the mother of my Lord’, but in her believing (‘Blessed is she who believed’). As supremely in her case, faith is the channel through which God’s power flows into the world.

Brendan Byrne, SJ