Dear Followers of the Messiah,
The prayer texts and scriptures for the Fourth Sunday of Advent take a dramatic turn. The great prophets of Isaiah and John the Baptist, who have been heralding a message of repentance and hope, are now silenced. We turn away from our preparation for the second coming of the Messiah at the end of time. Our attention now focuses on the birth of Jesus. This Fourth Sunday calms our souls and steadies our faith for it takes us back to the human longing for love and peace. Today’s gospel is charming and exquisite in its tenderness for the coming of Jesus to be born among us, to become the Word-Made-Flesh.
Today in Luke 1:39-45 we hear the simple story of Mary journeying to visit her cousin Elizabeth. There is such rejoicing between the two pregnant women. The rejoicing did not stop with the two adults for we hear that the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy. This child of course is John, who will be called The Baptist. This gospel in the fourth week takes us back to the beginning of Advent when we heard about John as an adult calling us all to repentance and forgiveness. Today we ponder such beauty of a child and all his potential.
This gospel forms our Fourth Week of Advent. I pray that we may sink our hearts into this story and find the joy and wonder of Jesus resting in our hearts and relationships. We are called in this great feast of Christmas to sort through our exhaustion, fear, and uncertainties to find joy again. Our joy fills the empty spaces of our lives if we take the time to sit in silence, to reflect and pray. Within Christmas, we are called to discover such hope among our bewilderment, peace among the obstacles that keep us apart, and love even among our fragile relationships.
The four weeks of Advent challenge us to recognize Christ in the deepest and darkest places of our human lives. This year, most especially, we behold a child to be our hope amid the ongoing pandemic, our job loss, our misunderstanding about vaccines and questions about our children’s safety and future. We center on the child Jesus to become in our day a radical reminder that powerlessness will be the place of grace, hope and healing. We are called into becoming humble and wise so that we may discover the miracles of life and the forgiveness and mercy for which we all long.
I pray that you may discover joy in your heart as you celebrate Jesus on Christmas Day. I pray as you feed an aging parent in a nursing home, that you might be grateful for all that has been in your life. I pray as you hold a newborn in the family, that you may come to a new awareness of miracle and love. I pray as you listen to your teen fidget about what to do with his future, that you may welcome all the possibilities of his talent. I pray as you enter the silence of your own life, that you may know the incredible love Jesus has for you, a love that only God can offer. I pray that loneliness may give way to union in God, and that misunderstandings may be forgiven and wiped away in the tenderness of Jesus’ birth.
Thank you all for your creative efforts to build our three communities of worship. Thank you so much for your desire to pray, to serve and to speak out for others in need. Thank you for educating your children here and worshipping in good times and in bad. Thank you for all of your spiritual and financial support. Peace to all who enter our churches this week to find the new places in which Jesus is born.
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor