FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
Today is the last Sunday before Christmas; that is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. That means, Mary is still pregnant. The gospel passage today tells us the story of the pregnant Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. The Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she was going to become the mother of Jesus, the Lord. The Angel added that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, who was already past the age of giving birth was six months pregnant. Mary immediately went in haste to visit Elizabeth, a journey of about 90 miles.
Jesus was born once upon a time, but Jesus wants to be born every day, not only by Mary, but by all of us, who are Christians. So, Mary is not the only one pregnant, we are all expected to be pregnant with Jesus. But how do you know that Jesus is in you? Mary got the news that she was already carrying Jesus in her and as soon as she heard that her cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant, she forgot about herself, and she went in haste to go help her older cousin. So, you know that you have Jesus in you if like Mary you are always in haste to help those that you are stronger than, those that you are more endowed than. Mary was younger, she had more strength and so she went to help the older one. As Catholics, after we receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist at Mass, the priest or the deacon says, “Go and announce the gospel of the Lord,” it is an invitation to be like Mary who had Jesus in her and went in haste to help Elizabeth. As Catholics, after receiving Jesus, we are to go in haste after mass to show love to others, to help those in need.
When Mary arrived, Elizabeth exclaimed, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” When I read those words, I wondered, “Elizabeth, how did you know that Mary is the Mother of the Lord? Who gave you the information?” Physically, there was nothing different about Mary, there was nothing written on her forehead that she was the Mother of the Lord. She came like any normal human being, yet Elizabeth recognized in her the mother of the Lord. The Blessed Virgin Mary had no WhatsApp, no Instagram, and no Facebook, so, it is not possible that as soon as the Angel Gabriel gave her the news she posted her new status on social media for Elizabeth to see. While I was wondering about this, I read the gospel passage again, and I realized that before Elizabeth spoke, she was filled with the Holy Spirit. That is the key! It was the Holy Spirit that filled Elizabeth that made her to recognize what was unique about Mary.
Sometimes, as Catholics, we get mad when our separated brethren, other Christians or even non-Christians fail to recognize in Mary, what we recognize in her. When we find people, who do not respect or reverence Mary as we do, we get mad. I have realized that that is not the right attitude. Elizabeth was able to recognize what was unique in Mary, not by flesh and blood, but by the Holy Spirit that filled her. As Catholics, like Elizabeth, the Holy Spirit helps us to recognize in Mary what is special about her. When we find others who lack that grace, and as such do not recognize what is unique in Mary, our reaction should be that of prayer, we should pray for them that God may fill them with the same Holy Spirit that has endowed us to recognize in Mary what is special in her.
What we celebrate in this season, the birth of Jesus, was prophesied many years before it happened in today’s gospel passage. In the first reading, it was prophesied by the prophet Micah 700 years before it happened, and it came to pass exactly like it was prophesied that Jesus would be born in the little town of Bethlehem, the least of all. But that is not the entire content of the prophecy. Part of the prophecy is that Jesus would rule over all the earth. That aspect is yet to be fully fulfilled. In some parts of the world, people are yet to acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ. The good news here is that the part of the prophecy that have found fulfillment have been perfectly fulfilled, and so if God said it and it happened as he said, it means that for the other parts, when the time arrives, they will happen the way God has said through the mouths of the prophets.
My dearly beloved in Christ, God has promised us many things. I have no idea which aspect of his promises are yet to be fulfilled in your lives. I have no idea what you are waiting for at this moment. I have no idea of the aspect of your prayers that is yet to be answered, but there is something I know very well, our God is a promise keeper, and he is always on time even when he takes seven hundred years. May our trust in God never put us to shame until all his promises find fulfillment in our lives, through Christ our Lord. Amen.