Monday, December 24, 2018

WE OWE HER EVERYTHING: A homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C (Luke 1:39–45)

Some people were will tell you that Our Lady was an unmarried mother.  That was based on ignorance of Jewish marital practices back then.  Our Lady was a legally  married woman from the time of her betrothal and if you had called her an ‘unmarried mother’ back then she and St Joseph would‘ve given you a hiding to remember.  Just because it has become socially acceptable now, to some extent, doesn’t mean it was back then; not at all.   By the way if anyone ever says to you that Our Lady was an ‘unmarried mother’ you have my permission to wash out their mouths with soap.

In Luke’s Gospel just before the passage we have just heard our Lady has just been told that God wants her to be the Mother of His Son.  She has said ‘yes.’  Having got this extraordinary news and having committed herself to God’s plan she heads off to Ain Karem, the traditional home of John the Baptist, near Jerusalem.  That’s a journey of between 95 to 100 miles, a good bit further than a hike to Dublin or Cork from here, and she did it on foot unless she got a lift on a donkey.  That’s a journey made on rough roads too with the danger of robbers, thieves and other evil men.  Why did a young woman make such a journey?
Our Lady was compelled by charity for Christ her son was already working in and through her.  He had already begun His mission and she was ever the perfect instrument of His will.  St Francis calls Our Lady the “Virgin-made-Church” and as both the Mother of Christ and His Body, and part of the people of God the Church, she reaches out in care and concern to Elizabeth in her need.
Elizabeth was Zechariah’s wife.  Zechariah was a priest who served in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Elizabeth is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Elisheba.  The original Elisheba who was Aaron’s wife and therefore sister-in-law to Moses, and her name means ‘God is my abundance’.  Her name may  also be a sign that she, and her cousin Mary, are themselves of priestly descent.  This is a priestly home.  One did not merely enter such a house but had to be careful not to breach any of the purity laws.  Mary marches in because she is the purest of human beings and now home to the Purest, the Holiest of all, God Himself made man.  She has through her ‘yes’ to God become holier than the Temple.  She has become the Holy of Holies.

Our Lady greets Elizabeth and on hearing the greeting John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit; God has filled her with His abundance.  Immediately Elizabeth cries out in prophecy for the Holy Spirit has revealed to her who Mary is carrying in her womb. Elizabeth is the first after our Lady to hear the Gospel in its essence.  God has become fully man.  God has fulfilled and over fulfilled His promises.  He had promised a priest to offer a truly perfect sacrifice, a prophet, likes Moses, to teach the people how to live truly holy lives and a king like David to rule God’s people forever.  He has more than kept His promises.  He has come Himself in His Son.  John leaps in his mother womb not because he is a baby and babies kick but because he too hears the gospel in his soul.  He leaps in fulfilment of prophecy for in the Old Testament it was said that the poor in spirit, those who truly put their hope in God would leap with joy at God’s fulfilment of His promises. 
Our Lady is blessed because she believed God’s word and cooperated perfectly with the Holy Spirit.  She actively engaged in the conception of her Son and our salvation.  We are the body of Christ - we were in a sense also in Mary’s womb and she is our mother.  His birthday is our birthday.  We too are called to leap with joy at the message of our salvation and liberation.  We too are called to go out to those in need with the gospel of Jesus, the truth that sets us free.  

If we say yes to God and put His word into practice, take the Gospel and the teachings of the Church seriously and live them, then God will speak and act through us. We were promised this in baptism.  We are each of us members of His Body.  We are each of us priests, prophets and kings.  Each of us can offer up sacrifices pleasing to God, each of us can act and speak on His behalf, and each of us can act with His authority if we do what He commands us.  Our Lady said yes and we were given the greatest gift ever.  Let us also say yes and receive what God has to offer.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails