Fourth Sunday of Advent

Finally we are in the final countdown to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord, and today’s Gospel presents two such women. Mary and Elizabeth are bursting with anticipation, with expectation. Mary is a young girl, newly married, with a baby announced by an angel and conceived miraculously. Elizabeth is an older woman, one who thought her chance to have a child had passed. Her baby, conceived naturally, was also announced by an angel. The women know that not just their lives will be changed, but the world will be changed, and then they greet each other, and the baby within Elizabeth –the future John the Baptist- recognizes the presence of the Lord within Mary. Both women –and this is the clue for our Sunday liturgy- proclaims their gratitude to God for working His wonders within them[1].

Perhaps, as a final preparation for Christmas, we can spend a few moments reflecting on the great Gift God has given us and focus on the gratitude we owe Him. We cannot forget that great gift of Christmas is the gift of Jesus. A Christian philosopher –Soren Kierkegaard- told a very interesting parable to help explain this gift

Once upon a time there was a king who was rich and powerful. The King was very unhappy, though. He wanted a wife to be his queen. Now a political marriage could easily have been arranged with another country but that is not what the King wanted. He wanted someone whom he could love and who could love him. Only real love could fill his empty castle and life. One day the King was riding through the streets of a small village when he came upon the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He immediately fell in love with her. But there was a problem: she was a peasant girl. The problem was that he wanted to win her love, not buy her love.

One of his counselors told him to just command her to be his wife. Any girl, especially a peasant girl, would jump at the opportunity. But the King would not do that. He could not command love. Another counselor told the king to that he should call on the girl as her King, shower her with presents of diamonds and gold, and give her the opportunity to realize that he truly loved her. But the King would not do that. A third counselor told the king to dress as a peasant so she would not be overwhelmed, and gradually reveal his power and position until she was ready to join him in the castle. The king did not like the thought of deceiving her. If their relationship was based on deception, how could she ever love him?

Finally, the King knew what he would do. He renounced his royal robes, his power and authority. He became a peasant in that remote village, living and working and suffering beside the other peasants. After a number of years, he won the heart of the beautiful young girl. He took his new wife to another village in another country, where no one could have guessed who he was. After many years, he became sick, and the wife loved him and cared for him. He died a peasant, but at his funeral the people looked at his wonderful, caring and in many ways extremely beautiful wife and said, “That man married a queen.”

Well, the lesson or moral of this parable is very simple: God is the King. He is the Divine Lover. We are the object of His love. Only God would love so much that He would become one of us to win our love[3].

This is the mystery that excites us. It is the same mystery that excited Mary and Elizabeth. They realized that they had each in their own way been chosen to be vehicles of God’s plan of love. Elizabeth’s son, John the Baptist, would point to this Love become flesh. Jesus, Mary’s son, would be this love. We also have been chosen to be part of this plan by the One who loves us and who calls us to make His Love a reality for others.

Today, my brother, my sister, with deep gratitude we pray: Lord of all love, you have come to us so we can come to you. You have become physical so we can become spiritual. You have embraced us with your Love so we can embrace others with your love. We thank you for choosing us to be part of your plan. We thank you for allowing us to join Mary and Elizabeth in the excitement of your Coming Presence.

We ask you now to give us the strength and the courage to proclaim your Presence with our lives. Amen ■

[1] Sunday 20th December, 2009, 4th Sunday of Advent. Readings: Micah 5:1-4. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved—Ps 79(80):2-3, 15-16, 18-19. Hebrews 10:5-10. Luke 1:39-44.
[3] St. Ireneus, an early doctor of the Church, wrote, «Because of his great love for us, Jesus, the Word of God, became what we are in order to make us what he is himself».

Ilustration: Pieter Bruegbel the Elder, The Peasant Dance (detail)c. 1567, Oil on oak panel, width of detail 39 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna)

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris