Theme: CHRISTMAS – SEASON OF VISITATION
By: Fr. Gerald Musa
Homily for Sunday December 19 2021
During war, an army chaplain was going round a hospital to visit wounded soldiers. The chaplain came to the bedside of a young soldier and offered to read a Bible passage, but the young soldier complained of cold. The chaplain took off his coat and wrapped it around the wounded soldier. Afterward, the young soldier asked for a drink, and the chaplain helped him to sit up and helped put the water bottle on the soldier’s lips. After, the soldier drank the water there was a few minutes of silence. The chaplain asked again, if he could read a passage from the Bible. The young soldier responded, “If there is any passage in the Bible that made you show me so much love and care, please read it for me.” When our actions reflect the teaching of the Bible, this is the kind of positive response we get from the people we meet.
The season of Christmas is a season of visitation. It is a time of reunion and a time when we visit our families and friends and it is a time to remember special people who played significant roles in our lives. More still, during this season, we identify with people who are lonely – especially the bereaved, prisoners, those who are homebound, orphans, lonely children, elderly people, the sick, and all those people on the margin of our society. There are times when we are in dire need of someone with whom we can share our sorrows, joys, confusions, fears, and anxieties. We carefully search for people we can confide in, people who will not judge us, who will not mock or ridicule us, but people who can cheer us up, encourage us, understand our perspectives and provide us with new insights. No doubt, Mary found these rare qualities and virtues in her cousin Elizabeth.
Christmas is a time to express our sensitivity and kindness towards the needy. Our exchange of material gifts is important, but what counts, even more, is the time we can spend with the needy who need our visit most. In the Letter to the Hebrews, we see the raison d’être for our Christmas Joy – It is a commemoration of God’s visit into our world in the person of Jesus (Hebrews 10:5). This season of Christmas calls us to open our hearts and homes to welcome Christ who comes to us with a special gift of Peace, Joy, and many blessings.
At Christmas, we remember the birth of a newborn child- Jesus who chose to be born in the little town of Bethlehem and not in the famous and more advanced city of Jerusalem. Long before the coming of Jesus into the world, the Prophet Micah predicted that from the little town of Bethlehem, a Saviour would emerge. He says “You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah (Fruitful Bethlehem), who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be a ruler of Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2). Bethlehem, an insignificant town has been transformed into prominence and has come to be a reference point in history.
Likewise, Mary and Elizabeth who were two obscure women were brought to the limelight because of the greatness of their children. These women came together to share their joy and to thank God for his great work in their lives. They came together at a time when they were carrying two prominent children in their wombs. These children (John and Jesus) were sent to change the course of history. John had the task of heralding the coming of Jesus and Jesus was to usher in a new era in human history, setting a new foundation for mankind, charting a new course in the relationship between people and God, and redefining religion.
These expectant mothers – Elizabeth and Mary were waiting for the promise of God to be fulfilled in their lives. In their story, we can sense the virtues of humility and ardent faith shining. There is yet another virtue that we cannot ignore in the story of Mary and Elizabeth, and that is the virtue of visitation. Mary took time to visit her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the angel announced to her that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah. The angel informed her cousin Elizabeth was already six months pregnant. Immediately, Mary traveled to Hebron, the hill country of Judah to rejoice with Elizabeth. Remarkably, Mary’s visit was not a short and quick one because she stayed with Elizabeth for three months.
During the period of the visit, these two cousins must have shared their profound experiences on the work of God in their lives. Mary, who had been pondering on the message of the Angel, needed someone with whom to share her thoughts and emotions. She needed someone who could understand her story and someone who had an in-depth knowledge of God’s strange ways. Also, she needed to share her joy with someone special to her, and no other person came to her mind other than Elizabeth. The prophetic words of Elizabeth show that she was a woman who was in touch with the working of the Holy Spirit. She repeated the words of the Angel to Mary: “Blessed are you.” Let these words of Elizabeth continue to echo in our hearts, let us remember always that we too are blessed to have a Saviour Jesus Christ who came to save us. Let us take time during the festivities to visit people the needy, the lonely, the sick, and those living with poverty and demonstrate the love of God to them.
Fourth Sunday of Advent Year C; Micah 5:1-4a; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45