CYCLE C | ADVENT | WEEK 4
– By Fr Damian Ikemefuna Ozokwere
In this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the prophet Michah foretells us in the first reading (Micah 5:1-4), that the Messiah whom we are waiting for will come from Bethlehem -the least tribe of Judah, and that when he comes, the Messiah will bring back all the scattered children of God from different places as a shepherd does with his flock. And as the Second reading today(Heb.10:5-10) has it, the Messiah does this in obedience to the Father who sent him and whose will he comes into this world to do, because he himself will be our peace.
In the Gospel reading, we are presented with the account of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s visit to her cousin -Elizabeth. The two women experienced an ‘Annunciation’ at the appointed time by the angel Gabriel who was sent by God and this gave rise to the two women experiencing a miraculous conception: Mary conceived while remaining a virgin while Elizabeth conceived when she had already passed childbearing age.
After Mary had received the angelic message, that she would be the mother of the Messiah, and also the joyous message, that her elderly cousin -Elizabeth had now conceived, Mary went as quickly as possible to visit Elizabeth and to share her joy.
What would be the significance of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth? On the surface, the narration seems to be about the meeting of the two mothers. It is actually beyond that. It is rather more about the MEETING OF THE TWO UNBORN CHILDREN -Jesus and John the Baptist. (Jesus in the womb of Mary & John in the womb of Elizabeth). This shows us how God’s purposes manifested in the two miraculous conceptions are intertwined. The visitation event was an occasion for these two great personalities (Jesus & John) to encounter one another while still in their mothers’ wombs.
As the story has it, immediately Mary got to Elizabeth’s house and greeted her, Elizabeth was instantly filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with great joy; ‘Of all women, you are the most blessed and blessed is the fruit of your womb, why should I be honoured by the mother of my Lord?’ And immediately the child in Elizabeth’s womb (John the Baptist) leapt for joy.
It is quite strange, for the baby to leap or jump in the womb. We know quite well that, a baby normally makes gentle movements while in the womb. But for a baby in the womb to leap or jump for joy is something most extraordinary. By this leap for joy, the child -John the Baptist in the womb recognizes the presence of his Messiah -Jesus who was to be born and therefore, there and then John expresses his joy and adores the Lord in the womb. Just as David rejoiced and danced before the Ark of the Covenant when it was brought to the city of David. (1Sam.6:12-16).
Indeed every genuine encounter of the Lord radiates inner joy in our inner hearts. That is why joy is the underlying emotion in this wonderful encounter. The Child -John the Baptist was filled with joy in the womb, and his mother -Elizabeth in turn rejoices and welcomes the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as the Saviour in her womb. And filled with inner joy, Elizabeth exclaimed; ‘Blessed is the fruit of your womb’. This Elizabeth’s expression forms part of the first segment of the Church’s ‘Hail Mary’ prayer.
Some other Christian denominations wonder why the Catholics honour Mary and proclaim her Blessed. Well, this encounter gives some clues as, why Catholics do that. In fact, the Catholics are only following in the steps of Elizabeth who when inspired by the Holy Spirit expresses her honour and respect towards Mary and the Holy Spirit also declare through her that; All generations shall call Mary ‘Blessed’. In fact, the only person who wouldn’t obey this injunction, to proclaim Mary ‘Blessed’ would be one who exists outside any human generation. And I really wonder who that person could be. Therefore, let all who are obedient to the Holy Spirit join all generations to honour and proclaim Mary Blessed.
Good still, this noble gesture of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth leaves us with a great lesson, that we should not hesitate to share and rejoice with other people when God has shown them favours. Often we remain nonchalant and indifferent when we hear that someone is favoured or fortunate, when we hear that, someone is healed or survives a terrible mishap when a friend passes a job interview or exams, when a family is blessed with a child or secures the desired home, etc. In a human relationship, it is a known fact that ‘A joy shared is joy multiplied. And when such joy is shared, God is glorified.
Let us, therefore, not hesitate to reach out and share the joy and love of God with others, especially within this great season of Christmas when God reaches out to us in Christ. Always make it a point of duty, to give the Lord Jesus the first place in your life and allow His teaching and values to determine and colour your daily life, decisions, and choices.