Sunday, Dec. 23, is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Mass Readings: Micah 5:1-4A; Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45.
The Gospel passage on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12, presented us with the pivotal moment of the Incarnation: the Annunciation. Mary, in profound humility and absolute trust, accepts the invitation of the angel to become the Mother of God, and the salvation of mankind is set in motion.
With the hope of all the world inside of her womb, she had every reason to remain home, contemplating and praying at this astonishing turn of events. Instead, filled with a desire to serve, she goes on a rugged journey — tradition tells us to the hill town of Ain Karim, nearly 100 miles from Nazareth, where her pregnant cousin Elizabeth had been keeping herself secluded (Luke 1:24-25).
This week we read of the explosion of joy at her reunion with Elizabeth, who was expecting John the Baptist — the prophetic “voice in the wilderness” who has been figuring prominently in the Advent readings thus far. All of Advent is saturated with the speech of prophets, such as that of Micah in the first reading, who foretold that the Messiah, whose “greatness shall reach the end of the earth,” would come as a baby from tiny Bethlehem.
However, this time it is Elizabeth’s voice we hear. “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” she “cried out in a loud voice” and proclaimed what had been Mary’s secret until then. At that moment, she became a prophet herself, calling Mary the “mother of my Lord.” Both she and her unborn son, who leapt at Mary’s voice, know that the hidden Messiah is with them. The glory of the Lord has entered their humble home in the hills, and they are both carried away in wonder.
There was one voice, however, which was not heard — that of Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, who had been mute since he doubted the angel Gabriel’s annunciation that he and Elizabeth would become the parents of John the Baptist (Luke 1:18-20). He would remain so for the remaining months before John’s birth, while Mary stayed with them, attending to her cousin. Zechariah’s doubt had silenced him.
In contrast stands the belief of two women: the absolute knowledge that God is trustworthy and the unshakable certainty that he fulfills his promises to his people — that a God so infinitely powerful, so immensely sovereign, could — and would — make good on his word, the word spoken through the prophets through all the ages before them, the word God “spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his posterity forever” (Luke 1:55); and that if he would choose to do it through aged parents, or a young virgin, or in tiny “nothing” town, then so be it. He would.
God continues to leave us with promises that he will remain with us always (Matthew 28:20) and establish a Church that shall not be overcome (Matthew 16:18); forgive the most scarlet of sins (Isaiah 1:18); restore us (Jeremiah 30:17); and give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11); as well as send his Holy Spirit (John 14:16) to prepare a place for us (John 14:2) and come again (John 14:18). Do we stand on these promises as surely as Mary stood in Elizabeth’s doorway, pregnant with the Promised One? Do we live as if they are true? If so, we cannot keep silent. We will be voices in the wilderness of a weary world, proclaiming in our words and in our lives, “Christ is coming — and his promises are for all of us, and ‘he shall be peace.’”