-To be celebrated on 19th December 2021-
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-44
vs.39 Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah.
vs.40 She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.
vs.41 Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
vs.42 She gave a loud cry and said,
“Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?
vs.43 For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.
vs.44 Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Michel DeVerteuil : A Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, director of the Centre of Biblical renewal .
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Nottingham.
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College, Dublin and works with Le Chéile
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger and National Director of The Apostlship of Prayer.
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina, The Year of Luke
Each year the gospel passage for this Sunday is a story of Mary’s pregnancy, and for this year it is the visitation. We meditate on this story as the second joyful mystery of the rosary, so that this could be an opportunity to go into it deeper than we usually can in saying the rosary, and this would give depth to the way we say that prayer which plays an important part in the lives of many people.
It is the story of two pregnant women and, therefore, an opportunity to enter into the symbolism of that experience, especially for those who have gone through it, seeing it as a symbol of how waiting can be a creative time, one when we express our love and one also when we can unmask all the self-centredness that is latent within us and blocks our ability to give ourselves wholeheartedly to others. Of course, it could also be a meditation on the sacredness of pregnancy itself.
Mary should be the main focus of our attention, symbol at this moment of her life of the person of faith, and indeed of the church. Particularly significant is the expression “blessed” that is attributed to her by Elizabeth; we must give the word its full biblical meaning, indicating that a person has a great gift from God and also that he or she has brought blessings to others. Mary’s blessedness in this passage is simply that she has faith, no great achievements or visible signs of God’s favour – just faith.
Scripture Reflection Prayer
Lord, there was a time when we had a dream:
* one day we would finally succeed in giving up drugs or drink and lead a healthy, creative life; or
* we would develop a talent for music we knew we had but had never been recognised; or
* we would be friends with someone we were too shy even to speak to; or
* we would play our part in making our country a more human and caring place.
The dream was there within us but very small,
so that people looking at us would think that we would never change.
Then someone like Mary came into our lives,
someone who also had a dream within her and so understood us.
There was something in her greeting
– not what she said, just the tone of her greeting as it reached our ears –
and in an instant the dream within us came alive,
like John the Baptist leaping for joy in the womb of Elizabeth.
We felt confident that it would become a reality one day
and we and the world would be different.
It was like being visited by a mother, not just an ordinary mother,
but one who was giving birth to the presence of God.
A deep feeling of humility came over us; we felt blessed and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Lord, we think today of some girl who is pregnant and regrets this pregnancy.
Perhaps she has no one in the home to lean on;
perhaps she is over-burdened with financial problems
or finds that the child will block her career.
We ask you to send some Mary to visit her home,
someone who has problems too
but trusts that you will fulfil the hopes she has within her,
and who will greet her in such a way
that the child in her womb will leap for joy
and she will feel blessed and filled with your Holy Spirit.
Lord, as a church, we have achievements that we are proud of,
great resources too that others admire us for:
* schools that many parents want to send their children to;
* an international network from which we get encouragement and financial support;
* an ancient and highly respected spiritual tradition and a host of great saints to whom we turn as personal friends.
But all that can make us arrogant.
Help us rather to be like Mary, remembering that others have resources too,
other churches, other faiths, other groups in society,
so that we may visit them as Mary visited Elizabeth in the hill country,
not with an ulterior motive or condescendingly, but just to greet them
so that the moment the sound of our greeting reaches their ears
they will rejoice in their gifts and in ours too.
Lord, there is a blessedness by which we experience great favours
– when we pass an examination,
– get a promotion or
– overcome some bad habit.
Help us to recognise the blessedness of Mary
that makes us the most blessed of all when we trust
that the promises you make us will be fulfilled.
Great and wonderful things are born from that kind of blessedness.
Lord, we thank you for parets or guardians in our country
who had to struggle so hard to bring up their children well,
and in spite of great odds have managed their homes with dignity.
What kept them going was a faith like Mary’s,
the deep belief that you had planted certain convictions within them
and that these would be vindicated.
We have been blessed by having them among us,
and many great people have been born as the fruit of their wombs.
Liturgical Resources for Year C (Luke)
Introduction to the Celebration
Christmas is upon us: yet are we ready? Christmas we are told is a time for fun, a time for peace, and time for rejoicing. Yet for many of us it is a time of stress and extra work to get done everything that needs to be done. A time when we are fearful that the children won’t be disappointed or that there won’t be tension in relationships or there won’t be a breakdown in the ceasefire with the in-laws. And on top of all this there is a feeling of guilt for feeling like this when we should be rejoicing. So we can look on our meal this morning as time-out from all this stress. Jesus comes to us because he loves us, not because we have worked to bring him here or are ready for him. He comes among us now and offers us rest and forgiveness and peace. He invites us to share his table, the table he has prepared for us, and to rejoice and relax at that table, for it is the table of his love.
1. It is often hard to preach on this Sunday as it can be so close to the festival that one can sense the distraction in the minds of people: there are other things happening and we are all in a bit of a rush. So one needs a relatively snappy but staccato way to break into people’s imaginations and overcome their distractions.
2. One way to do this is to focus on the first reading and use it to imagine what we believe about Jesus the Christ. Put another way, preach the text through our consciousness of the gospel in the manner these prophetic texts have been used in the liturgy since, at least, the time of Matthew’s preaching.
3. What do we want to recall about Jesus the Christ as we move closer to Christmas?
4. ‘But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days‘ (Mic 5:2).
The Son of God, the Word through whom all things were made, visible and invisible, has been bom in a tiny village in Palestine. We are spoken to by one who is a human being with us, who has been become a human being for our sake: for us and our salvation he came down from heaven. Jesus is the ruler in Israel, the fulfillment of the promises that God would deliver his people from slavery. Jesus is our ruler and leader, and the king who will come again to judge the living and the dead.
5 ‘And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth’ (Mic 5:4).
Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
Jesus gathers up all who are scattered and wandering lost on the hillsides.
Jesus rejoices when those who are lost are found: there is more rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents than over ninety nine others who have no need of repentance.
Jesus is the one who feeds his people: we are gathered at his table to share in his banquet.
Jesus reveals the majesty of the Father to us and he glorifies the Father’s name.
Jesus’s kingdom has no end, and we are charged to bring his gospel to the very ends of the earth.
We prepare for the nativity of Jesus, but the most important nativity is his birth in our lives when we take him as our priest, our prophet, and our king. Unless he is born within us, in our world, then our celebration of his birth in Bethlehem long ago is an empty sham.
Let the reader understand
If John the Baptist dominates the early part of Advent it is Mary the mother of Jesus who comes centre stage now. In this text from Luke,, our attention is focused on the event upon which the mystery of God’s saving will depends. Throughout the scriptures, God has sought out people with humility and courage to hear and respond to his word and through them his saving will has been made known. In this young woman from Nazareth the human response to God finds its perfect model. Luke presents Mary as the woman of faith and he gives more prominence to her than the other evangelists. By her openness to the Spirit of God she opens the way for God to come into the world and that is the way Luke presents discipleship. God will be at work in the world wherever the followers of Jesus leave themselves open to the work of his Spirit in an attitude of faith.
It’s a little ironic that David should have imagined that he could do something for God. It seems that his success as king went to his head and he forgot his humble origins as a shepherd boy. In the gospel for today we see an Israelite who is fully aware of who she is before her, God and it is this humility which allows her to say “yes’. The promise made to David in the grandeur of his palace centuries before would now be fulfilled because an ordinary girl in ordinary surroundings has an extraordinary openness to her God. There is very little splendour and majesty in the Christmas story; it is characterised by simplicity and humility and these are the gifts we need to appreciate the power of its message. Let’s pray for them with faith and fervour.
Donal Neary SJ
Sharing and celebrating faith
One of Mary’s first recorded journeys was after the announcement to her that she was to be the mother of God. It was a journey of service, a visit to her cousin who needed help. When dealing with such challenges as pregnancy bereavement redundancy a son in prison or a daughter on drugs – we want to talk and we want support.
Mary and Elizabeth had something else to share – their faith. The prayers they said have been said ever since. The stage was small but the audience has been millions ever since. They were not shy about their faith in their God.
In a time like ours we need to externalise our faith – to go to Church, send a card with a Christmas greeting, not just a season’s wish – not to parade, but to make present our faith.
The meaning this week is – Jesus is born, and we celebrate that together, with thanks, music, socialising, prayer and Mass. We need to find God again, and let ourselves be open to him in the deepest areas of life, just like the husbands of both these women, Joseph and Zechariah, as well as their wives, were open to God.
Nothing need keep us from God or from the crib at Christmas. All are welcome. The real meaning of Christmas is to meet with God and to help our neighbour.
Come Lord Jesus and bring joy and laughter among us.
Come with , the music of eternity and the songs of the earth.
Come among us and make us truly grateful for your birth and your love.