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Pastor's Letter 20211219 - 19 December 2021 - Faith and Obedience of Mary

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December 19th, 2021

Fourth Sunday of Advent


A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:   Faith and Obedience of Mary” 

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Writing in late eighth century B.C., when Jerusalem was under siege and David’s dynasty was in jeopardy, Micah denounced the hypocrisy of a flourishing religious cult that did not translate its piety into an ethical code of social justice.  In today’s First Reading (Micah 5:1-4,) he announces that salvation would come from a comparatively insignificant place: Bethlehem.   From there, a new Leader would come to gather together the scattered exiles and unite the nation once more.  Fully equipped by God for His mission, such a Leader will bring security and the Messianic blessing to His people.  


The whole letter to the Hebrews is a combination of doctrinal exposition and parentheses (admonition, exhortation,) in alternating passages. Today’s Second Reading is part of a doctrinal passage (Hebrews 10:5-10,) that presents Jesus as High Priest, the source of external salvation.  The author asserts that the Mosaic Law can never perfect those who seek to draw near to God, by constant repetition of the same sacrifices year after year.  He contends such ceremonials to be but a “shadow” of future benefits, and not purification from sin; for it was impossible for the blood of animals to take away human guilt.  Christ, has undone the old order and brought in the new, by expressing His willingness to bring about the reconciliation between God and His people.   


Much of the rich symbolism and tradition with which each feast of Christ’s nativity is remembered and celebrated is due to the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke.  These stories have provided the reader with a type of “imitative historiography,” in the literary style of classical historians.  In today’s Gospel selection, both Elizabeth and Mary learned of each other’s pregnancies through a divine intermediary—the angel, Gabriel (Luke1:39-45.)  Mary’s acquiescence to the angel in accepting her motherhood, her “fiat,” is key to our understanding of her role in the salvation story of Jesus as human.  Elizabeth is portrayed as blessing Mary for her faith, and both women can be seen as models of true Advent spirituality.  

The Grace of Visitation

Often times in our busy world, we substitute interactions via social media for “in-person” visits to friends and relatives.  This “impersonal” method, which first began with phone calls, today has become “text messages,” “Instagrams,” “Tweets,” “Facebook posts,” and the like.  As physical distance between one other has dramatically increased over the years, we are left with few options, short of the above-mentioned methods, along with traditional Christmas cards, and “Holiday Letters,” to substitute for visits.  In the old days, with closer proximity, life was simpler and people were able to visit often.  But then, sometimes, people who have had the same neighbors for years, many times only know them from brief, passing encounters, smiles and nods.  It is rather sad, and there is a loss….

When we pay a visit to someone, we see ourselves as doing good for that person.  But we also can be enriched, if only to see how others cope with challenges, and even difficult or nearly impossible situations in their lives.  Even when visiting the sick we can find shining souls.  We may come to them to “give,” only to find that we are also “receiving.”  We go away “buoyed up,” and to some extent, that happens in every visitation.  One is blessed by receiving—the other is blessed by giving. 

In our Gospel story of Mary’s visitation with her cousin, Elizabeth, she had just been visited by the angel, Gabriel, who had brought her Good News—that she was to become the mother of Jesus.  However, instead of going off and concentrating on herself, Mary went in haste to visit Elizabeth, who was also expecting a child.  Our first and holiest duty is kindness toward our own family.  But this doesn’t mean it’s always easy—one’s kin sometimes can be very demanding.  

Mary’s visit meant a great deal to Elizabeth.  But Mary also benefited.  Elizabeth spoke some lovely words of affirmation and confirmation to her: “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  As the elder, and more experienced of the two, Elizabeth was able to help and comfort Mary, as they shared the same condition.  Following their examples, we might consider visiting people we may have neglected throughout the year.

The Blessedness of Those Who Believe

The Gospels are replete with examples of blessedness of those who believe—wonderful things happened for them:

  •  Jesus said to the centurion: “Go, be it done for you as you have believed,” and his servant was cured (Matthew 8:13.)
  •  To the woman with the hemorrhages, He said: “Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well,” and her bleeding stopped (Matthew 9:22.)
  •  To the two blind men, He said: “According to your faith, be it done to you,” and they got their sight back (Matthew 9:29.)

One could say the central theme of the Gospel is the blessedness of those who believe.  All of Jesus’ preaching had as its aim to elicit faith in people’s hearts.  However, it is not simply a matter of believing, but of believing and acting on that belief.  It is a question of hearing the Word and doing it—taking risks on it, and making sacrifices because of it.  It’s hardly worth proclaiming your belief, if you don’t intend to emulate it with your deeds.  

Sometimes, people say, “It’s easy for you; you have great faith.” Faith doesn’t always make things easy. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be the case.  It’s because we have faith that we refuse to give up.  Faith impels us to persevere, to struggle on, often with no guarantee of a happy outcome.  A person with faith never gives up.

Mary is blessed because she not only believed, but also acted on her belief.  Immediately after her visit from the angel, Gabriel, she went to visit Elizabeth—showing us that, to her, religion was not mere sentimentality, but was converted into action.  She was the first, and most perfect of Jesus’ disciples.  That is why the Church proposes her as our model.  We also will be blessed if we hear the Word and act on it.  

The essence of the Good News is that God made Himself present to us, in the life of His only Son, Jesus, Who walked upon the earth.  Because He was a human being like us, through Him, we can enter into an intimate relationship with God.  He calls us to open our hearts to one another, and in so doing, we are opening ourselves to the “great joy” announced to the shepherds by the angel.

May God Richly Bless You!

"Mary, who conceived the Incarnate Word by the power of the Holy Spirit, and then in the whole of her life allowed herself to be guided by His interior activity, will be contemplated and imitated above all, as the woman who was docile to the voice of the Spirit--a woman of silence and attentiveness; a woman of hope."

~~John Paul II-"Tertio Millennio Adveniente, p.48~~

Come Down, Lord.docx

To view a live stream of today's Holy Mass, Click here:  https://share.icloud.com/photos/094F91wkV0wT6JzTpRWk1-upw



Edited by Father Michael
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