The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
December 19th, Fourth Sunday of Advent - Luke 1:39-45
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.
It was one of the great meetings in human history. But it was not between kings or heads of state or leaders in any usual sense of that category. Rather it was between two pregnant women, members of the same extended family. Mary travelled from her home in Nazareth to Elizabeth who lived in the hill country to the south. Mary came to help her older relative in need, as happens in caring families. Especially among women.
Their encounter created a moment of joy, not just for the two women, but also for the child being carried by Elizabeth. As Luke described it, he leaped for joy. Why not? Was not Mary pregnant with the coming Messiah? God was becoming flesh in her womb.
I want to focus on this reaction of the two women – and this curious “leaping for joy” on the part of the John the Baptist.
The mention of “joy,” both here and at the birth of Jesus, is well worth our consideration, especially when the feeling of genuine joy may be uncommon right now. Perhaps, like me, you have noticed that the daily news reporting often likes to present a positive moment of smiles and happiness toward the end of its reporting. This is because the lead stories often describe tragedy, suffering, disappointment or conflict. Nothing that would suggest that we should be joyful about our lives, especially in the present time.
I don’t want to be idealistic to the point of denying reality, but we live in a world that was, and still is, deeply loved by God. We all remain God’s children. God dwells within us and around us and between us. This reality might be thought of as a great secret only among saints and mystics. But I believe this joyful awareness exists in many ordinary folks, like you and me. But we need reminders of God’s presence and goodness and deep love. Mary and Elizabeth found it in their encounter described in today’s gospel. We are encouraged to do the same in our meetings with others.
God created us to be joyful. Not artificially through the accumulation of wealth or material riches, but through the deep realization that God created each of us out of love. And we are called to spread that love to those both close and distant. And as I have mentioned more than once in these gospel reflections, one place to find that love and joy is within the family. Just as Mary and Elizabeth did. But we must be aware of that gift, and the joy that accompanies it. That joy is the great gift of this season.
©David M. Thomas, PhD