Painting and column text: Ronald Raab, CSC
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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 for us 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 of his potential.
This gospel forms our short Fourth Week of Advent. Christmas is in two days. I pray that we may sink our hearts into this story and find the joy and wonder of Jesus resting in our hearts, lives and relationships. We are called in this great feast of Christmas this week 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, 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 have challenged us to recognize Christ in the deepest and darkest places of our human lives. This year, most especially, we lift up a child to be our hope amid the crimes of our clergy and the neglect of so many. 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 poor and powerless so that we may discover the miracles of life and receive the forgiveness for which we ache.
No matter what is going on in your life this Christmas, I pray that you may discover the joy nested in your heart as you recognize Jesus. 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 miracles 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.
Thank you for all of your creative efforts to build our three communities of worship. Thank you so much for feeding our poor on weekdays and on Sunday evenings. Thank you for educating your children here and worshipping in good times and in bad. Peace to all who enter our churches this week to find the new places in which Jesus is born.