Fourth Sunday of Advent - Blessed Are You Who Believed

In today’s Gospel passage from Luke, we hear the story that would eventually become the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary - i.e., the Visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth (mother of St. John the Baptist).

Each time I read or hear what Elizabeth says to Mary in the last line of the story:  “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled,” I cannot help but feel that her words were recorded not only to ensure we remember the tender exchange between the two women, but also to impart a principle of discipleship for those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the principle being:  belief in God goes hand in hand with trust in his promises.

Through the course of my life I’ve learned that trust is not something that happens instinctively as is the case with babies, who though lacking the ability to make conscious choices, trust their mothers completely.  With adults however, trust is something that often takes years and is the result of a pattern of honesty and forthrightness within a relationship. We can assume that Mary’s upbringing by Saints Joachim and Anne was one that validated reasons for having faith in God. How else could she at the age of fourteen or so, respond to the Angel Gabriel’s news that she would conceive and give birth God’s Son without the need for intimate relations with a man? “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

As we look to Mary as an exemplar of trust, we can also look to the saints. Those who trust in God, do not need or want to control everything in their lives. Instead, in poverty of spirit, they ransom their will for that of the will of God, which in turn allows them like Mary, to conceive of the Holy Spirit. In so doing, Jesus (the Word) again is made flesh in them, and dwells among his people by virtue of their trust in God. St. Paul says it best when in his letter to the people of Galatia he saysI have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

The lesson for us is clear and it’s about choice. We can try to control everything and keep God at arm’s length, or we can surrender ourselves in faith and poverty of spirt to God’s will as Mary did, believing that what is spoken to us by the Lord will be fulfilled. I am not suggesting we abdicate our day to day responsibilities, but rather that we give God the opportunity to guide us in our decision making.

So on the 4th Sunday of Advent, we light the last purple candle of the advent wreath; the Angel’s Candle, which symbolizes the peace the angels spoke of when they announced the birth of “Emmanuel” (God with us) to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” And who are those on whom God’s favor rests? It rests on those who believe in the promise God made to his people long ago: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7: 14).

“Glory to God in the highest!”

Deacon Ernie