Reflection on the Gospel-4th Sunday of Advent Year C
Veronica M. Lawson RSM

(Luke 1:39-44)

The final Sunday of Advent draws us closer to the celebration of the Christmas mysteries. The gospel offers the story of the young pregnant woman, Miriam of Nazareth, travelling 'in haste' from her home town of Nazareth to the hill country of Judea, some 130 kms to the south, to be with an older woman who is also pregnant, her cousin Elizabeth. Mary enters 'the house of Zechariah' who remains silent and in the background throughout. While Zechariah is the householder according to Jewish law, his earlier reluctance to believe renders him silent and powerless to offer hospitality. Elizabeth's contrasting openness to recognise and affirm the living presence of God in their midst makes her the true householder and foreshadows the reversal that is to characterise the new order. The two women embrace and, in their loving embrace, the Spirit-filled life gestating within Mary encounters and physically affects the life that is coming to birth in Elizabeth.

Elizabeth's words resound throughout the ages in the prayer we know as the Hail Mary: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb...." These are the words of one woman prophet to another. Elizabeth recognises that Mary is blessed by God because she believed that God's promise to her would be fulfilled. As God's prophet, Elizabeth gives expression to the faith that is to be embraced by all those who accept that Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Miriam of Nazareth, is the Holy One of God (Luke 1:35). The lives of both women have been transformed through the power of God's Spirit. The birth of their children will bring to birth an unprecedented event in human history.

Elizabeth's proclamation of the blessing of God on Mary is found daily on the lips of countless faith-filled Christians across the globe. It echoes the blessing prayer of Moses to the Israelites (Deut 28: 2-4): "May you be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. Blessed is the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock...." In our times, God's blessing on the whole Earth community can only become a reality when we stop playing politics in the interests of short-term gains or personal greed, when we read the signs of the times, and work together to address the underlying causes of global warming and its effects. Advent is not a time of passive waiting. It is a time to ponder the various ways that God sustains life in its diverse forms and to become householders, like Elizabeth, who clear the paths and open our doors for the God of life to enter in.