Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent 

(Song of Songs 2:8-14; Luke 1:39-45)

Pope Francis’ itinerary in Mexico has been announced.  He will visit the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the country’s patron, in the capital.  But that is the only major commercial center that he will go to.  Rather than Guadalajara and Monterrey, Francis will travel to San Cristóbal de las Casas, Morelia, and Ciudad Juarez.  These cities have undergone grave troubles recently.  The pope’s intentions are obvious.  He intends to comfort victims of violence and poverty.  God seems to show the same concern in today’s gospel.

Two women take center stage.  Elizabeth suffered the disgrace of never having a child.  Mary has shown implicit obedience to God’s word by rushing to Elizabeth.  Both represent the poor who continue trusting despite the hardships they face.  Now God is acting on their behalf. 

We may never duplicate the humility of Elizabeth and the obedience of Mary.  But we can imitate their example.  We can curb our desire for recognition and our need to have things our way.  When we do, we will know the full joy of Christmas.  We will realize that God has truly come to share with us His peace. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent – December 19, 2015

(Judges 13:2-7.24-25a; Luke 1:5-25)

It is said that for Jews the first commandment is not: “Thou shalt have no strange gods before me,” or even: “Love God with all your heart…”  No, their first commandment comes from the initial words God speaks to humans: “Be fruitful and multiply.”  Thus, Zechariah and Elizabeth – two God-fearing people – feel “disgrace” both naturally and religiously for their not having born a child. 

Luke punctuates the fact that Zechariah seeks a sign from the angel who bore the news of his son’s unlikely conception.  The request is reminiscent of people in the gospel demanding a sign from Jesus. These skeptics are unsure about Jesus even after he demonstrates his divine authority time and again. 

What God calls forth from Zechariah -- and from us as well -- is trust.  He gives his word to Zechariah that Elizabeth is going to bear him a child.  A wise person might admonish the priest, “Enough; believe it, Zechariah, and give praise to God.” Jesus speaks similarly to us. He tells us in the early days of Advent to prepare for his return.  This means that we are to care for the needy, to pray for those who persecute us, and to thank God continuously for everything we have.  Now with the celebration of his coming so near, trust means to have confidence that he will save the world from its folly.  ISIS will be defeated.  Abortion will come to an end.  Our personal pride, lust, and sloth will be overcome.