Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 14, 2021 Cycle C
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine,
 Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the last Sunday before Christmas, we meditate upon the Incarnation, the entrance of the eternal Word of God into time and space, and Mary’s role in this great mystery. We also reflect upon how God uses humble and small instruments to fulfill the greatness of his design.

“You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel” (Mi 5:2). Greatness came from smallness in Bethlehem, the little town where the Messiah was born, the birthplace of the King of Kings. God accomplishes his plans with discretion, concealing his greatness in the simple, the poor and the humble. Through the insignificant in the world’s eyes, God manifests his glory.

In today’s Gospel, we contemplate the mystery of the Visitation: the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth. These women were small and humble, like Bethlehem. Nevertheless, one of them was carrying the greatest of the prophets in her womb, while the other was pregnant with the Savior of mankind. When the mother of Jesus enters the house of Zechariah, the mother of John the Baptist says: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). Elizabeth recognizes that Mary’s greatness is the infant whom she is carrying. However, Mary’s cooperation was essential. That is why Elizabeth also says: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45). Mary’s faith and acceptation of God’s will were the prerequisites for the Incarnation of the Word. In the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, Saint John Paul II wrote: “The fullness of grace announced by the angel means the gift of God himself. Mary’s faith, proclaimed by Elizabeth at the Visitation, indicates how the Virgin of Nazareth responded to this gift.”

Today’s second reading proclaims that the Incarnation is the fruit of God the Son’s obedience: “When Christ came into the world, he said: […] a body you prepared for me […] behold, I come to do your will, O God” (Heb 10:5–7). Jesus’ obedience to the Father parallels Mary’s “yes” to God in the Annunciation: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk1:38). 

We do not need to do great things. We simply need to do God’s will. Our lives can become great if we place our smallness into God’s greatness through the humble acceptation of the circumstances given to us. Like Mary, if we do God’s will, we carry Jesus within us, bearing witness to the greatness of God through our poor humanity, and become transformed by faith. There was a light in Mary’s gaze, a sweetness in her speech and a transcendent presence in her person.

May Christmas help us rediscover God’s greatness in the small and simple. May Mary’s example and intercession help us to do God’s will.  Amen.