Theme: MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN SOMEONE’S LIFE
By: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka_
Homily for Sunday December 19 2021
R1 – Mic 5:1-4
R2 – Heb 10:5-10
GOSPEL – Luke 1:39-45
A little girl was walking along a beach covered with thousands of starfish left dying by the receding tide. Seeking to help, she started picking up the dying starfish and tossing them back into the ocean. A man, who watched her with amusement, said, “Little girl, there are hundreds of starfish on the beach. You cannot make a difference by putting a few of them back into the sea.” Discouraged, she began to walk away. Suddenly, she turned around, picked up another starfish, and tossed it into the sea. Turning to the man, she smiled and said, “At least I made a difference to that one!”
Beloved in Christ, today being the 4th and last Sunday of Advent, the church presents us another phenomenal Advent figure to emulate in our Christmas preparations, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Gospel reading describes how Mary, a village girl carrying Jesus in her womb, made a difference in the lives of her cousin, Elizabeth and of Elizabeth’s unborn child, John. It was a visit that brought enormous joy to her cousin and her family.
In other words, Christmas is a period when we make a difference in the lives of those around us… We ask ourselves, “Which kind of feelings and reactions does my presence evoke in people around me?” Mary’s presence brought joy and contagious power and influence of the Holy Spirit to the house of her cousin, Elizabeth.
Pope Benedict XVI once wrote that the Visitation is more than just a trip into the country for a young girl from Nazareth. He went further to explain, when Mary “set out in haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth, she embarked on the world’s first Eucharistic procession. She carried Christ into the world. She was a living tabernacle. And so it is that her cousin became the first to experience Eucharistic adoration, and to share in the first Benediction. “Blessed are you,” she says to Mary. “Blessed is the fruit of your womb. Blessed are you who believed.” Three times, she speaks the word “Blessed.” I can’t help but be reminded of our own Benediction, when the bells ring three times, and then we chant the divine praises: “Blessed be God…
Furthermore, the starfish introit story, suggests that each person, no matter how unimportant, may truly benefit from our work, and that any service, however small, is valuable. The story also shows how seemingly hopeless problems can be solved by taking the first step
The whole Christmas drama, reveals how Jesus came into the world and made a difference. We remember how it started from the minutest village of Nazareth to that which the world cannot contain. That is why the prophet Micah, in the first reading, gives assurance to the Jews that God is faithful to His promises and that from the unimportant village of Bethlehem, He will make a difference by sending them the long-expected ruler.
*MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN OUR WORLD
Robert F. Kennedy once spoke of the ripple effect of insignificant gestures:
“Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation… It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
As already mentioned, today’s Gospel narrative describes how an unknown Jewish virgin, Mary occasioned such a ripple effect by her little, loving acts of humble service to her elderly and pregnant cousin Elizabeth.
Like all good Jews, whatever Mary did was prompted by her commitment to God’s word in her life. “It is traditionally believed that Mary received the message of Elizabeth’s pregnancy while residing at her home in Nazareth. Elizabeth was living in Ein Karem at the time, and the distance between the two villages is roughly 100 miles. Ein Karem is on the outskirts of Jerusalem and is about 2,474 feet above sea level, while Nazareth is at 1,138 feet. This means Mary had to trek uphill nearly 1,336 feet in elevation!
So, every concerted effort of one person towards a particular societal ill, can go a long way to make a difference and change the world around us for good. Only when a doctor becomes a doctor, a priest becomes a priest, a politician becomes a politician, a police becomes a policeman, a father becomes a father, a mother becomes a mother, etc., would we change and make a difference in our world.
(1) *EVERY CHRISTIAN MUST BE A CHRIST-BEARER.*
Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the Spirit of Christ, through Whom Christ is reborn in us and thus enables us to share His love with all whom we encounter. We do so by offering them all humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate, caring love. Let us take the time to visit others during this Christmas season, especially the sick and shut-ins, to bring some inspiration into their lives, and hopefully to bring them closer to God.
2) *WE OUGHT TO RECOGNIZE MOTHER MARY’S UNIQUENESS.*
Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognized Mary’s uniqueness as the ‘Blessed among women.’ Every Catholic who recognizes Mary’s uniqueness, via honouring and fostering devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, shares in the anointing of Elizabeth and the baby in her womb. It only takes the power of the Holy Spirit to do that. Do not drag those who do not share such grace.
(3) *FIND SOMEONE AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN HIS/HER LIFE.*
There is a fundamental question we ask ourselves, “How do we leave the people we meet?” Do we leave them better or worse than we met them. Mary’s visit changed almost everything for her cousin and her family. We must learn to bring joy and peace to the world by just targeting and making difference in the life of one person or a family.
Finally, a popular American composer and performer, Bradley James, once narrated an encounter with a homeless beggar on the streets of San Francisco. Bradley placed some money in his metal cup, then reached out and shook the man’s hand. The recipient gave him a big smile, and the two exchanged names and small talk. Bradley recalls: “Then he pulled me a little closer and said, ‘Thanks for the money, but what I really needed was a handshake.”
Beloved, Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “We don’t have to go to Calcutta to help the poor; rather, we must help them right in front of us.” Little gestures of love and concern matter.
Indeed, what was remarkable in the epilogue incident was not the coin, but the gift of human dignity and the love of Christ that Bradley James brought to the beggar through the handshake and his fraternal presence.
Remember, Mary made the difference in the lives of Elizabeth and her family, not through material offer or financial assistance, rather, through her kind gestures of love and availability.
MAY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT INSTILL IN US THE GRACE TO ALWAYS RECOGNIZE JESUS IN OTHERS; RECOGNIZE MARY’S UNIQUENESS AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIFE OF SOMEONE THIS FESTIVE SEASON.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
_FR GERALD MUOKA_