Please click on the link for Newsletter: 4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT 20122015
“Blessed is she who trusted.”
Life, like birth, takes time. It has a long gestation. The bloom appears only after a slow unfolding of the bud, wherein every moment of development finally participates in the glory of the full flower. We never quite grasp the process until it’s over.
Yet, strangely unlike life, we anxious humans are impatient with process. We are restless with our beginnings, our smallness. It is hard to wait, to trust that something good and great will come of all the mute moments in between.
It is the same with a people’s promise. Israel, seemingly condemned to insignificance, was a people called to faith, by the prophet Micah, that God’s guarantee would somehow come true. “Bethlehem, too small to be among the clans of Judah … from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.” Out of their hidden smallness would rise a mighty and wondrous shepherd whose greatness could span the ends of the earth.
Little Bethlehem had in its midst a smaller life yet, a body prepared for the great high priest, the Letter to Hebrews notes, who would come to do the Most High’s will. The single “yes” of this high priest was destined to win the sanctification not only of Bethlehem and Judah but of nations.
What the infancy narratives are all about is a subject of contention. The most considered and delicate judgments can be found in the commentaries of Raymond E. Brown, SS. Yet no matter what we make of these accounts of Jesus’ origins, they reveal that his “yes” was made possible only by an earlier act of trust. The Virgin believed that greatness would be worked out of her own life, her own womb. She believed the promise of God and, in doing so, gave birth to the promise.
The Gospel story of the Visitation is a wondrous convergence of insignificance and portent. Two cousins greet, one running to assist the other, both pregnant with life and faith. The hidden unborn quickens the triumph of faith in Elizabeth who, despite all appearances, recognizes in Mary the mother of her Lord: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. … The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby stirred in my womb for joy.”
The secret encounter of these hitherto unknown women announces the future course not only of four lives, but of the world.
John Kavanaugh, SJ