Theme: FAITH IN ACTION DURING CRISES
By: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Cath. Church, Omaha, USA.
Homily for Sunday December 19 2021
1. Two sons joke. As we get closer to Christmas, the scripture readings emphasize the role of Mary as Mother of Christ in the Christmas event and her role in our salvation history. Sometimes people wonder why Catholics especially pay so much attention to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The story is told about a man who asked, “I don’t understand why you Catholics make such a big deal about Mary. I don’t see much difference between her and my mom.” The Catholic thought and then said, “Well, I don’t know much about the difference between the two mothers. But let me tell you: There is a big difference between the two sons!”
2. Mary’s Faith in Action. Dear brothers and sisters, no one else is a better follower of Christ than Mary herself and this is why she can teach us how best to follow Christ, how best to be a Christian even in these times of crises. Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 1:39-45) presents Mary doing just that. She teaches us how best to prepare for Christmas and beyond. She just got the message from the Angel Gabriel, the Annunciation that she would be the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God, and hence, the mother of God incarnate. Mary was also told that Elizabeth was already with child. She believed what Angel Gabriel told her, gave her Yes in Lk 1:38, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”. Notice that she was going to be in “crisis” with her betrothed spouse Joseph but she believed that God would take care of the crisis that would surround her being pregnant before going to live with Joseph. So she set out in haste to visit Elizabeth. That was faith in action, Mary’s faith in God, expressed in her sacrificial care for Elizabeth. Imagine the long journey to Elizabeth’s village on the hill. Imagine Mary’s caring voice greeting Elizabeth. And we are told what followed: When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb. Even before his birth, John the Baptist was already announcing the presence of Christ, and in this case, by recognizing the voice of Mary. Mary’s voice would continue to help people recognize Christ when she later told the servants at the wedding feast at Cana: “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Elizabeth appreciated Mary’s example of faith in action. For filled with the Holy Spirit, she taught us a prayer now familiar on our lips when we recite the Rosary everyday: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb”. Elizabeth then echoed the lesson of Mary’s faith in action: And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Elizabeth appreciated Mary’s humility. Being the Mother of Christ, she was entitled to some preeminence that should have made Elizabeth the one to visit Mary. Interestingly, Elizabeth understood that Mary’s faith in God was what gave rise to Mary’s act of charity towards her, thus, she added: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
3. Crises. Were there obstacles to Mary’s faith? Certainly. Virgins don’t conceive without the marital act but she did not doubt that God can make it happen. Are there obstacles to our own faith today? Surely. Besides the pandemic, we are facing natural disasters. Like Mary, let us reach out to others who are facing crises, as she reached out to Elizabeth. Similarly, the encounter of Mary and Elizabeth as expectant mothers reminds us of expectant mothers of our time. Thanks be to God, besides stable family support, we also have over 2500 pregnancy resource centers, sometimes called Crisis Pregnancy Centers, CPC, in the US alone, who support women to choose life. There are 3 times more CPCs than abortion facilities in the US! Thanks be to God, Heartbeat International supports the largest network of CPCs in the world, with over 2,000 affiliates in 50 countries. Thanks be to God, more and more men and women are doing a lot to make abortion unwanted today and unthinkable for future generations. Thanks be to God, the Son of Mary has adopted all of us as His brothers and sisters and gives us the grace to become more and more like Him as we do God’s will. Amen.