Blessed are you among women. Blessed is the fruit of your womb. Elizabeth said this to her young engaged but yet to be married cousin, Mary. She said it to a thirteen, fourteen-year-old girl, pregnant out of wedlock and with her fiancé Joseph not being the baby’s father.
At that time the incarnation of our God in our midst was hanging in the balance.
If, for a variety of reasons, the Fruit of Mary’s womb had not grown to full gestation and be born, we would not be here celebrating the most astonishing fact in the history of humankind: God in human flesh like ours.
No Christmas, no Gospel, no healing, no teaching about our heavenly Father’s love, no Eucharist, no dying on cross, no resurrection, no eternal life.
We would have never learned how to pray…how to love Jesus… how to hope.
We would be living in darkness and despair, fighting instead of sharing, exploiting instead of helping, stealing instead of giving, manipulating instead of cooperating, oppressing instead of serving.
If we are familiar with the Gospel, we would know for sure that, throughout his public ministry, Jesus was reluctant to perform miracles to avoid the risk of feeding sensationalism and foolish reliance on easy solutions. Jesus performed his miracles to show the Father’s love for His people and moved by compassion for their miseries and also to reward those who sought healing sustained by their great faith.
The striking difference between the Gospel and sacred books of other religions is evidenced by its lack of sensationalism and by its simplicity. The message that God wants to keep stressing for us as we seek Him is to approach Him in poverty of spirit and simplicity of heart.
We can appreciate God’s penchant for the lowly, the powerless, the poor, and for those overlooked and ignored by the world also in our three readings for this Fourth Sunday of Advent:
But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small 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 times. (Micah 5:1)
The God, whom the whole universe could not contain, took on the body which the Father had prepared for him and submitted to the Father’s will even unto death on a cross.
“But a body you prepared for me” (Hebrews 10:5)
“Behold, I come to do your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:7)
The Lord had been close to lowly Elizabeth throughout all those long years in which she felt ashamed for being barren and unable to give her husband Zachariah a son. And even at the time of the visitation by her cousin Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, she was elated, but also apprehensive because pregnant at an unusually advanced age.
However, true to His modus operandi, the Lord brought her comfort in the most ordinary way, the way all pregnant mothers experience: the kicks that she felt from the baby (John the Baptist) growing inside her. It was the Holy Spirit, the “Comforter” who made the ordinary become extraordinary for Elizabeth.
And Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:41-45)
As we often face serious difficulties, do I need to remind myself and all of you that the Lord God has never left our side?
“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23)
Actually, He is in our hearts even in these days of mounting uncertainties, nagging worries, repeated cases of senseless violence, devastations not too far from where we live and a variety of disconcerting situations which we can only attribute to stubborn craziness of foolish people who have, intentionally, detached themselves from reality.
The message that we welcome from this liturgy of the Word is one of staying the course and of continuing to live our life sustained by courage and hope, while feeling comfortable with simplicity of heart and a spiritual hunger which the Lord alone can satisfy. If we can soar above our worries for a moment, we should realize how we have already, in our past experience, lived through situations of unusual difficulty. Granted, that they were not as difficult as those experienced by Elizabeth and by Mary; yet, we can always find comfort in God’s Word and the light of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, so that we, too, can be and feel BLESSED as Elizabeth and Mary did.
In our Gospel passage (Luke 1:39-45), we find the reassuring word “BLESSED.” For us believers, this familiar word should not be equated with being happy, lucky or fortunate. It must be the realization that God has looked with favor, with infinite predilection, with boundless love upon someone and made that lowly person overflow with His divine gifts.
To make this upcoming Christmas celebration what the Lord desires to make it for us, we should spend some quiet time reflecting on how truly blessed we have been and are, in spite of everything happening to us and around us. The inescapable conclusion we must reach is that the Fruit of Mary’s womb has blessed us, and his blessings will sustain our hope into eternity.