Homily – 4th Weekend of Advent

My friends, today begins the last week of our Advent journey and perhaps a good question to ponder these next days might be, “What was God really up to in the Incarnation?”  And in order to fully consider this question, let’s check out the themes of today’s Scriptures. 

   There seems to be a “sense of urgency” in Luke’s account today of “Mary’s haste,” to go and be with her older relative, Elizabeth, sometimes called her aunt or her cousin. The relationship one way or another isn’t as important as the fact that she went!  In actuality though, it would have been customary for a younger woman to go and attend to an older one in this situation, but it would seem that more is going on here than just one family member helping another. 

   Other players in this incarnational story, beyond Mary and Elizabeth, are of course, Joseph, and the families of these two young people who in so many ways, said, “Yes” to God and all those past prophets who announced this wondrous, coming event. 

   The prophet Micah says of this Coming One, [he] “will stand firm and shepherd the flock and this Ruler will be their Peace.”  This line says much to me about how this Coming One will “save” us—not by dying for us, but truly by, living for us.  Micah basically says, that this Coming One will, “shepherd us,”—read, care for us, as a shepherd watches over their sheep—leading us to all the good things that we need.  Micah says that we will know “peace” through this Coming One. 

   Each of us friends, struggles throughout our lives with our human condition.  We are capable of great good, each of us, but also, humanity has the capability of much evil—and this is evident with even a cursory look around our world, so we each pray with the psalmist today, “Make us turn to you O God.” 

   The writer to the Hebrews foreshadows for us what the grown Jesus will be about—more of “what God is really up to.”  “I have come to do your will.”  This writer lets us know that all the covenants made in the past between the People of God will be fulfilled in a new covenant begun with Jesus and all of us. 

   But, as I said last week, Advent calls us “to the crib” and what we can learn there.  Additionally, this is an event that we shouldn’t rush—12 days allotted to Christmastime are hardly enough to take in the full meaning of the Incarnation—and what “God was truly up to!” 

   So, let’s begin with today’s gospel from Luke and Mary’s need, it seems to indicate, that she gets to the little town of Ein Karem, in the hill country of Judah, to be with her aunt Elizabeth.  Sources tell us, and we have all long known the story, that this happened after the Annunciation telling her that she was to be the mother of the Messiah and that her relative Elizabeth, who had long been childless, was now—finally, blessed too, and would produce a son meant to be the forerunner of the Messiah!

   So friends, when we let all this sink in, we can understand, I think, why Mary would, “make haste” to visit Elizabeth. If for no other reason than to give credibility to the fantastic things happening and about to happen! Scriptures also don’t tell us how the families of Mary and Joseph accepted her news, so credibility would have been an important piece of all that was going on.

   And the credibility sought by Mary, the Scriptures tell us, is just what she found!  “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby stirred in her womb.”  Other sources tell us, that until this greeting from Mary, Elizabeth had yet to feel confirmation that the child in her womb was alive!  Remember, she had been childless, and no doubt feared that this “happening” might not produce a child either. 

   And with this realization for Elizabeth, that indeed her child was alive, she was able to give credence to what Mary believed had happened within her.  “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” 

   I mentioned the other players in this incarnational event—Joseph, for instance—betrothed to a woman who was now found to be “with child” by someone other than himself.  He, as a good Jewish man knew the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah—but we can imagine that credulity was stretched as he came to terms that this may happen, in his time, and place, and through his wife!  And we can’t forget the prophets who foretold the coming events without any assurance that they would live to see the outcome.  A lesson for us perhaps as we do the good we do, planting seeds for another time that we may never see.

   I lay all this out friends, as others have done through historical novels in the attempt to make the Incarnation as real as possible, so as to make this action on the part of our loving God more real, more palpable. 

   And when we think about, “What Was God Really Up to in the Incarnation,” we can more easily conclude that it was all about love.  Our God first gave us life—a chance at a human experience and then came to be, one-with-us in order to show us how best to live our one wonderful life, because up until that time, we hadn’t gotten it exactly, right.

   And make no mistake about it—we see what was uppermost in our God’s mind in sending Jesus.  He came as a vulnerable baby to poor parents in order to show us that the very least among us are as important as those who have the most, materially. 

   We can see, if we have eyes and hearts to see, that the poor and destitute at our present-day borders are Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus coming into our lives again and again.  That is why what many of us in our Winona community, All Are One Catholic church included, through the Winona Sheltering Network are about in purchasing our first house to shelter those in need, seeking asylum or just a better life is so significant.  And that this is coming to fruition during the 12 days of Christmas is simply awesome! We humans are capable of much, both good and bad, but I personally see more good in this world than I do bad.  I said earlier that the more important piece in today’s gospel was the fact, “that Mary went,” –she made the decision to do something, something good!  Praise God and all of you who have so generously given to this endeavor—this dream in Winona! And the story continues… Amen? Amen!