On this, the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, we have the Gospel account of Mary visiting Elizabeth. Upon her arrival, Elizabeth proclaims, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
The theme of the blessedness of those who believe runs right though the Gospel. Wonderful things happen for those who believe.
You could say that the central theme of the Gospel is the blessedness of those who believe. All of Jesus’ preaching had as its aim to elicit faith in people’s hearts. However, it is not simply a matter of believing, but of believing and acting on that belief. It is a question of hearing the Word and doing it---taking risks on it, and making sacrifices because of it. As Catherine Doherty said, “Don’t bother proclaiming that you believe unless you act accordingly.”
Sometimes a person will say to someone else, “It’s easy for you; you have great faith.” But it is not like that. Faith does not always make things easy. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be the case. It is because we have faith that we refuse to give up. Faith motivates us to persevere, to struggle on, often with no guarantee of a happy outcome. A person with faith never gives up.
Mary is blessed because she not only believed but also acted on her belief. Immediately after the visit of the Archangel Gabriel, Mary went in haste to visit Elizabeth. From this we see that Mary’s religion was not a matter of mere sentimentality but something she put into practice.
Mary was the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus. This is why the Church sets her before us as a model of discipleship. We too will be blessed if, like Mary, we hear the Word of God and act on it.
The celebration of Christmas can be of great benefit to our faith. Many people find it easier to trust God at Christmas then at other times because we feel his presence in a very loving way. The core of the Good News is that God made himself present to us in the life of One who walked on this earth, indeed so truly present that this One, Jesus, was the Son of God. At the first Christmas there were those who believed and those who did not. The Gospel emphasizes the blessedness of those who believed.
Christmas makes it possible for us to enter into an intimate relationship with God. And Christmas also invites us to open our hearts to one another.
And in opening our hearts to one another, we are opening ourselves to receive the great joy announced to the shepherds by the angels. A blessed Christmas and I pray you will “Welcome the Word!”
— Fr. Dennis, 23 December, 2018