Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 23, 2018 – Year C
Readings: Mi 5:1-4A / Ps 80 / Heb 10:5-10 / Lk 1:39-45
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
If you go to daily Mass, and you were at daily Mass on Friday, you should be experiencing a little deja vu. The gospel today is exactly the same as the gospel we had on Friday, and Bishop Barron had a wonderful reflection on it. No, I’m not just going to read you his reflection, but it got me thinking, and sent me down a different path than I was planning to go. I will share with you a little bit of his reflection.
Bishop Barron writes, “I’ve always been fascinated by Mary’s haste in this story of the Visitation. Why does she go with such speed and purpose? Because she found her mission; her role in the Theo-drama.”
We’re dominated today by the Ego-drama, in all its ramifications and implications. The Ego-drama is the play that I’m writing, I’m producing, I’m directing, and I’m starring in. Mary went with great haste. Why? Bishop Barron reflects that she had now suddenly found her purpose. Blessed was she, she said “yes,” she gave her fiat.
But I wondered: That’s a great story, but what does it have to do with me? What can I take from this that I can apply for myself?
Two things came to me: What is my part in this great Theo-drama? and, What is your part?
It helps to first break it down a little bit and look at what we are as Christians. We are many things. At our Baptism we became children of God. We became brothers and sisters of Christ. We became heirs to the kingdom. And we became co-workers in the Master’s vineyard. But what does that mean?
That means that we have certain responsibilities. Now, from a 30,000-foot level, the Church talks about your vocation, and there are three: religious life; married life; and single life. It may seem that, depending on your path, these things are different, but they’re not. You have the same obligations no matter what your chosen path, and you are called to meet those responsibilities daily. It’s up to each one of us to figure out how that call plays out in the world today.
The next question that we need to be asking ourselves is: How do we do that? At first glance, it seems that the choices are infinite. But we discern this the same way we should be discerning everything: We discern this through prayer. No matter what we are doing, we should be focusing on our prayer life, because through prayer we can hear God’s call and we can discern our direction. We should be studying, reading the scriptures, reading about what’s going on in the world, reading about how the saints may have dealt with a similar situation, because history repeats itself.
And we should also be making use of the community. Christianity is not a solo part. We play out our roles in this Theo-drama as a community. We are part of the Body of Christ. There is strength in numbers because we don’t have to do this on our own.
But things get messy, because life is messy. Life was messy back when Jesus came into the world and it’s still messy today. Think about Mary: You see beautiful Nativity scenes, but they can gloss over what was really going on. Think about this for a second: Mary went with great haste to the hill country. Did you know that’s an 80-100-mile trip, and she could not hop on a bus? She went on foot or on the donkey. That’s a long, dangerous, dusty, dirty trip.
Look at her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant in her old age. She was past the time when she normally could expect to bear a child, but God had different plans, and that was messy, I can imagine.
Let’s think about Mary again: Nine months after she was making this trip, she’s back up in Nazareth, and she has to make the same trip again. But this time she’s nine months pregnant, and she winds up giving birth in a stable. Life was messy then, and it’s messy for us today.
I worked with a guy who, when I would get frustrated on a job, would look at me and say, “Eddie, it can’t all be ice cream.” That is so true. We may not have the same problems, but we still have problems all the same.
And our plans change. We may have pictured life going in one direction and suddenly it’s headed in another direction. We can throw up our hands and give up or we can refocus. We can embrace the change and try to discern what it is now that we need to do. The wind almost never blows where you want to go.
If you’ve ever sailed, you know that: If I want to go in one direction, the wind is blowing in another direction. So how do you reach your objective? Change direction, and then change direction again, and you keep your eyes on the destination, and you don’t give up hope when you have to make a few more turns than you expected. You hold on to the basics: your prayer, your study, and your participation in the community that is around you.
Hold onto the fact that God stands firm as our shepherd, and that we were consecrated through the offering of Jesus Christ, once for all, and our job is to stay focused and discern how we take that grace, that joy, that hope, that has been given to us and share it wherever we find ourselves on the stage of life.