Saturday, December 19, 2009
Blessed is she who believed
This is the 4th Sunday of Advent!
Christmas is around the corner and we have turned the corner in Advent too. We have finished the messages of repentance, Gaudet Sunday is behind us and finally we have Mary carrying baby Jesus in her womb.
Luke 1: 39 - 45
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah,
40 and she entered the house of Zechari'ah and greeted Elizabeth.
41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.
45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
This reading is so rich in meaning.
Mary went to Elizabeth in haste because in part her life was in danger. Mary was betrothed to Joseph but she was not yet married. She could have been stoned to death.
Even now, "honor killings" in the Middle East are still common.
When Mary accepted God's invitation to carry Jesus - she was putting her life on the line and so she went in haste to her cousin Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit but so was her child, John the Baptist, because he leaped in Elizabeth's womb when he heard Mary's voice and when she came close with Jesus in her womb.
And why did this all come to pass?
Because Mary believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord and accepted God's invitation.
It made no sense for Mary to accept God's offer. She was a young teenager, she was betrothed to a good man who was going to take care of her. God made no promises of wealth, or power, or fame - God didn't promise her any reward. God didn't even talk to her - he sent his Archangel Gabriel.
In Aramaic: Gabri-el, "God is my strong man/hero or Strength of God" The same Gabriel who went to Zechariah with the message of Elizabeth about to bear John the Baptist. The same Gabriel who visited Daniel when he was a captive in Babylon. Muslims believe that it was Gabriel who revealed the Koran to the prophet Muhammad.
So Gabriel was an important messenger but Mary didn't know any of that. All she knew was that this was what God wanted her to do and this young, teenage girl made the most important decision in the history of humanity. She agreed.
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to your word."
And she saved the world.
That is the power of belief. Not only blessed is she who believed but blessed are we who believe still.
It is our belief that builds hospitals, feeds the hungry, clothes the poor, educates the ignorant, and rebuilds shattered lives.
This is the most evident in this season. When people who may not go to church at any other time except Easter come back to the Church (at least for a little while). Where carols about Jesus birth are heard on the radio and seen on TV shows. Where people are a little kinder and smiles come a little easier even for strangers.
Where we get a glimpse of the way that life should have been before sin and the devil brought so much suffering and death.
It is tough to believe. Our secular world attacks those who have faith regularly.
But at least for a little while we can set that aside.
We can enjoy the glimpse and the moment. Listening to the children sing the carols that we sang when we were young. Opening the presents and seeing the joy light up the faces of our loved ones. Cherishing the memories being created before our eyes as we remember our own Christmas' past.
Almost everyone enjoys Christmas. Even atheists enjoy this season. But for those who believe - it is so much more. Beyond the gifts, the lights, the goodies...we have the promise. The promise of salvation which begins with Jesus birth.
Enjoy this moment. We are blessed because we believe still!