The Blessed Virgin is the best example of Advent preparation
Each year in the Advent readings, we are reacquainted with several Old Testament figures and prophecies plus New Testament figures such as Joseph, John the Baptist, Zechariah and Elizabeth. But on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the church always saves the best for last by presenting to us the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the preeminent example of Advent preparation and expectation.
This year the Fourth Sunday Gospel recounts Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. She went “in haste” after the Annunciation, when she gave her fiat to allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow her so she could become the Mother of our Lord. Imagine what was going through the mind of the Blessed Mother after the angel left her. She had the greatest of all mysteries within her. Something truly extraordinary had occurred. She knew all the hopes of Israel and the world were beginning to be fulfilled through the Child within her.
Instead of being singularly consumed with thoughts about herself and her part in God’s plan, Mary thought first about going to assist her elderly relative Elizabeth, who was also with child. This shows the generosity and quick assistance of the Blessed Mother toward those in need.
When Mary entered the house of Elizabeth and greeted her, Mary’s greeting must have filled the house with grace and joy. John the Baptist leapt within his mother at the sound of the greeting, seemingly knowing that his Lord and his Lady were present. The children and the mothers rejoiced, and all was replete with the presence of the Holy Spirit, who inspired Elizabeth to return Mary’s greeting by saying those words which will be spoken forevermore: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
This Spirit-inspired joy continues today in the whole church whenever we recognize the Real Presence of our Lord in our midst and when we see the help of the Blessed Mother in all the ways she continues to bring her Son to us. The church constantly welcomes Christ into the world and shares his grace with all who will accept it. The true work of Christians follows the exact example of these two women: We welcome Christ and we bring him to others. This should be our joy as it was for Mary, John and Elizabeth in the presence of our Lord that day.
Father John Broheimer is pastor of St. Peter Parish in Omaha.