If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: Mic 5:1-4; Heb 10:5-10 Lk 1:39-44
The visitation of Elizabeth by Mary is often interpreted as Mary’s concern for Elizabeth. Mary had heard from the angel that Elizabeth was in her sixth month and so rushes to her aid. This is true but only at the very superficial level. If this were the only point, then it would seem strange that Mary who rushed to Elizabeth’s aid would leave three months after arriving there i.e. soon after Elizabeth’s delivery of John; a time when she would really need all the help that she could get. Thus Luke makes a much deeper point when he narrates the incident of the visitation. It is that Mary was so full of the “good news” that she could not contain it within herself but had to share it. It was “good news” not only for her but for the whole world. It was news that could not be kept locked up within herself, but had to be proclaimed to everyone.
This good news is what Micah speaks about in the first reading of today. The ruler of Israel is struck upon the cheek with a rod, things seems totally out of control and there is a feeling of being closed in all sides and defeat is staring us in the face. Yet… there shall come forth one who is to rule and take control over the most distressing situation. This movement from suffering to hope reminds us that God is at work to see that our individual life pilgrimage will move in the same direction. Although hope seems beyond present thought or feeling, Micah’s words repeat again and again the liberating intention of God not to let people remain trapped in their experience of exile. It is important to note that these hopeful words from Micah do not belittle the reality of suffering. Nor do they promise a quick fix, a way to bypass the pain yet to be endured before the dawn of better days. Pain is taken seriously and is part of the human condition. However, the point is that even in the midst of pain there is hope. God is working to make all things well. The mention of both Bethlehem and Ephrathah makes a double connection with David, including both geographic location and family identification. The small size of Bethlehem which is one of the little clans of Judah is of no consequence to God. When God is about to do something great, human estimates of status, size, power, and influence are completely irrelevant. In fact, God often deliberately chooses someone whom we would probably dismiss as the most unlikely candidate for carrying out God’s mission.
This is evident in the choice of Mary chosen by God to bring Jesus into the world. She was from Nazareth an obscure village from which the Messiah was not expected. She was a simple village girl. Yet, it was she who was chosen unknown as she may have been to be part of the earth shattering event that would change the course of history forever. In other words, the Incarnation occurred within a very real world, a limited world, a broken world, a world that was very much in need of healing.
The verbs used to describe Mary’s visit to Elizabeth all convey haste or urgency. The urgency is because of the wonder of what God has done. Mary is so full of it that she cannot keep it to herself and must share such wonderful news. Elizabeth responds to Mary’s visit with four oracles. The first declares the blessedness of Mary. Elizabeth recognises that Mary is blessed by God because of her openness and generosity. The second oracle discloses the identity of the child in Mary’s womb. The child is indeed the Lord. The third explains the leap that the child in Elizabeth’s womb gives. It is a leap of joy. Even in the womb of his mother John the Baptist begins his role as the precursor or pointer to Jesus. The fourth and final oracle speaks of unconditional faith and trust. It speaks of the courage to believe even when things are in the future. It speaks of total confidence in the God’s word, knowing full well that even if all evidence seems to point to the contrary, God will fulfil what is promised. It speaks of knowing the future and what it will bring not because one can foretell it, but because one knows that God it is who holds the future. This is the confidence of Mary. It is the confidence with which she dared not merely to say Yes to God but to add that it be done to her according to God’s will. This was because she knew that what God could do in her would be infinitely greater that what she could ever do, even with God’s help. This attitude of Mary resulted in her womb becoming that locale in which the greatest of all events would take place. Her womb became the locale in which all expectations would be exceeded. Her womb became that place in which not merely would a ruler be born, but in which the king of all kings would take residence. Her womb became God’s first home on earth.
The letter to the Hebrews confirms Mary’s disposition and attitude when it speaks about the disposition and attitude of Jesus. His focus was to do God’s will and to let it be done to him. Like Mary, Jesus too knew that what God could accomplish in him would be infinitely greater than anything else.
As we stand at the threshold of Christmas, we are invited to adopt the attitude of Mary. It is true that even today things are not as they ought to be. It is true that injustice, prejudice, disharmony, intolerance and fanaticism still raise their ugly heads. It is true that the poor are poorer today than they were some years ago and the rich have only gotten richer and often at the expense of the poor. However, it is also true that our God choose to come 2000 years ago and chooses to come even today into such a corrupt and broken world. Like Mary we are challenged to believe that if we let it be done to us, Christ will be born in our minds and hearts and the vision of Micah for a just world will be fulfilled because our God lives in our world.