Monday, December 17, 2012

Gospel text for Sunday 23 December 2012

Luke 1:39-45      In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
Reflection      What does it mean to be blessed? In this context it means to be favored by God, which is how the angel Gabriel greeted Mary before she left to visit her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, “Greetings favored one. The Lord is with you!” What a fantastic announcement. And it was not long thereafter that Mary received essentially the same message from Elizabeth, “Blessed are you...(favored are you),” and “blessed is the fruit of your womb,” (the Lord is with you). It’s no wonder Mary believed that she was blessed and with the Lord. Not only did she receive the message from an angelic messenger she also heard it from the lips of her kinswoman. 
Here is the thing about being blessed. Blessing is not fulfilled unless it is believed. When we believe something we accept that it is true, we have confidence in it. But it does not stop there. Mary “...believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord,” and acted on it. She believed the angel’s claim that her elderly cousin Elizabeth was six months pregnant and so went quickly to Judea to be with her. It seems Mary believed the divine declaration, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk 1.37) and it set her in motion.
The angel Gabriel didn’t do something to Mary. The angel did not impose the will of God upon Mary. Mary did something. She chose to believe. And that is the essence of faith. Faith is not the particular doctrine or theological perspective that we adopt in an attempt to explain the inexplicable (pregnancies). Faith is not the explanations and justifications of our behavior. Faith is our intellectual consent to what we cannot understand or explain. Faith is our decision to believe the angel’s message that along with Mary and Elizabeth we are blessed and the Lord is with us. 
In the wake of the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, we desperately need to hear the angel’s good news. “Blessed are you. The Lord is with you.” And perhaps even more than that we need to choose to believe that even in the midst of the debacle at Sandy Hook school, we are blessed. God is with us and something good that we cannot begin to explain or even imagine will rise from the ashes of this tragedy because “nothing will be impossible with God.” May we, like Mary, act such that it be so.