One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the gospel reading personally. A great way of doing this is using the “Lectio Divina”; this is a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.
We hope that it helps you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
Gospel of the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Luke 1: 39-45)
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be[e]a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
The sadness of solitude is not fully understood until beauty graces your life and you find that you have no one to share it with.
Normally we only seek others in order to have someone to complain to: we tie them to the chair or to the telephone and force them to take some of our weariness.
It’s much harder to find someone with whom to share our joy: in part because we are superstitious, as if it weren’t a good idea to let others know that we are happy; in part perhaps because happiness is a little embarrassing, we’d prefer to live it discreetly; a little also because it’s difficult to find someone with whom to share the simple or important things that happen to us in our daily lives in a deep way rather than just off-the-cuff.
Nevertheless, as this Gospel reading from Luke teaches us, there’s no deeper experience than having someone that you feel understands you; someone with whom to read back over your past in order to discover how God continually touches your life.
In order to seek this person we must first stand up, get out of our comfort zone, set out on a journey. Mary is the woman that lets herself be moved by her truest desires. Authentic desires overcome all fear.
Mary conquers the distant mountains: the obstacles that block our view of the final goal. Mary probably made the journey with a caravan of people she knew, and yet the text presents Mary on her own. There are journeys that we can only take alone.
If we remain within the Gospel’s text as it was given to us, we see Mary alone on a treacherous road, crossing Samaria to reach Judea. Mary isn’t looking for just anyone with whom to share her joy: she’s looking for Elizabeth, she who can truly understand her; a woman that is living an experience similar to her own.
Elizabeth represents the sterility of humanity, a humanity without hope, convinced that it can no longer bear fruit. This is the humanity that has fallen into the temptation of thinking that God is just too far away. [pullquote align=”right”]”There is no love that is not put to the test by communication. Where communication breaks down definitively, there love ceases, because in fact it was only a deceptive illusion.” – K. Jaspers[/pullquote]Even her husband Zechariah, despite the long hours that he spends in the temple before that which is most sacred, no longer believes that God can intervene in their lives. Perhaps Elizabeth, in her silence, has continued to hope. Perhaps she has also experienced that solitude which is the impossibility of sharing her last crumbs of hope with another person.
It is precisely to this humanity, sterile and without hope, that Mary brings Christ.
Mary is the face of the Church that, driven by desire, is called to go out of her way and set out on a journey to reach this humanity.
Elizabeth, whose name means God is Promise, is the figure of every man and woman for whom God has a promise to fulfill.
Elizabeth is also the woman of discernment; she who knows how to listen to that which moves within her -her deepest feelings- and asks the essential question: what does this mean? Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord has come to me?
Elizabeth is not satisfied with her emotions alone for she wants to know what they mean: what is this experience saying?
The encounter with another person is also an encounter with reality: Elizabeth is the first person Mary goes to see. Their dialogue becomes a place of confirmation: God is truly among us.
Generally we are accustomed to reading history in a different way: we are used to hearing of history being made by great and illustrious characters. Luke is rewriting history in a revolutionary way, placing two simple women at the center, one of them -Mary- coming from an unknown village. This however is in fact how God has always made history.
Mary’s journey belongs to all of us: the joy that Eve took away has been returned to us by Mary. No one is left out of this promise for there is a bond that precedes and unites us. It is a bond that inevitably unites us in the same salvific destiny. It is precisely this bond that precedes us, that we have not chosen, that becomes the foundation of the possibility of seeking out another person with whom to share the beauty of life.
Questions for personal reflection:
– Does your life contain moments of deep sharing?
– How does God come to visit you in your moments of sterility?
Featured Image: Giandomenico Ricci @Flickr