Advent homilies

Dec. 22, 2019

THE IMMEDIATE FAMILY OF JESUS

Readings: 1st- Is. 7:10-14; 2nd- Rom. 1:1-7; Gospel- Matt. 1:18-24

The prophecy of Isaiah seems to be fulfilled in the story of the birth of Jesus, “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us” (Is. 7:14). This eighth-century prophecy was given to Ahaz who ruled the kingdom of Judah at the time. Ahaz’s refusal to join the coalition brought tension to the kingdom as he wondered whether his decision was right for Judah. Isaiah then asked him to request for a sign from God to which Ahaz responded, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” Isaiah considered this response hypocritical, the reason why he said, “Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?” Therefore, the prophet declared that the Lord would produce the sign himself irrespective of what Ahaz and the people believed, namely, that the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel. Ahaz and the kingdom of Judah had only to fit into God’s plan.  

Matthew’s gospel gives us a detailed picture of the human origin of Jesus. Matthew begins his gospel with a genealogy which traces the ancestry of Jesus from the Old Testament through Abraham. In today’s gospel, we read about Jesus’ immediate family of origin, Mary and Joseph playing key roles in this history of salvation. In Mary, God reveals the meaning of the sign given through the prophet Isaiah. Mary is the virgin who conceives her child in a mysterious way. She is betrothed to the young man named Joseph. 

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph form the greatest bond in humanity’s family story. Their virtues bear eloquent testimony to the reality of God’s presence for which they are called the Holy Family. They bring to the picture the profundity of the name of Jesus, “Emmanuel, God is with us.” But they had their struggles. They lived with their challenges. They faced conflicts within their family life. 

Mary faced several inconveniences as a young pregnant lady. Sociologically, she might have had her self-esteem threatened because of the nature of her pregnancy, quite a complicated case. Being a virtuous woman and becoming pregnant in her parents’ house aren’t compatible. Since the Jewish community is close-knit, it is possible that she would imagine that her people would be thinking about her in a negative way. In terms of convenience, Mary didn’t bother about her personal comfort. She didn’t worry about what the pregnancy would prevent her from achieving. She only desired to please God and to bring forth the baby according to God’s plan.

Joseph, her husband, was a devout man. He discovered that his wife was pregnant. Joseph knew that he was not responsible for the pregnancy, so, he decided to divorce her. Joseph took a more compassionate approach, intending to send Mary away quietly in order to save her from disgrace. While Joseph contemplated this action, he had a dream. The angel of the Lord appeared to him with a different plan. Scripture says, “Such was his intention when behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Matt. 1:19-21). This marked the turning point in Joseph’s life and in the history of humanity. 

Let us just stay on how this couple dealt with their conflicts in this gospel passage. Mary was about to be misrepresented by Joseph because of the nature of her pregnancy. Scripture says, “before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” That means she was found to be pregnant outside of her marriage. That’s serious under the Jewish custom. Joseph was in the position to disgrace Mary. Joseph would have acted without listening to the Angel. It was already his plan, to divorce her before the angel appeared to him in a dream, for “such was his intention.” But I’m sure Mary prayed hard to be heard and understood by Joseph at that time. She knew she was innocent. However, Joseph was not abusive to his wife despite that she was pregnant in a manner that wasn’t clear to him. He only decided to divorce her quietly. Joseph wanted to save her face. 

Importantly, Joseph and Mary listened to the voice of God. As a couple, they were open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Mary was to conceive by the Holy Spirit. She was available to do God’s will. Joseph had a dream during which the angel spoke to him to take Mary in as his wife. He changed his plan and did not divorce her. How many times in your family’s challenging moments do you listen to God’s voice? How many times do you hear him speak to you? How many times do you change the course of your actions because of divine intervention? How often do you let the Holy Spirit decide for you in your marriage? Are you experiencing conflicts in your marriage? How do you try to resolve them? God’s voice or your voice? Which one speaks louder? Does your temperament make you take impulsive actions against your spouse? Are you abusive verbally because of what your spouse has done wrong? Has compassion been thrown out of the window in your relationship? Do you treat your spouse in a gentle manner like Joseph? Do you save her from embarrassment? Do you protect her from public disgrace? 

Joseph and Mary teach us great lessons today in our families and marriages. There will always be conflicts, confusion, challenges, and disappointments. Things will not always go our way, and sometimes we cannot even change them. God invites us to listen. He is present, “Emmanuel, God is with us.” God will be with you if you listen. He is the one who can re-route the direction, the one who takes you to the proper exit. He is the one who provides the solution. He wants you to play into his plan. Only a gentle heart like Joseph can hear him. 

 

 

Dec. 15, 2019

A CLEAN CREDENTIAL

Readings: 1st- Is. 35:1-6a, 10; 2nd- Jas. 5:7-10; Gospel- Matt. 11:2-11

The signs of the coming of God’s kingdom are amazing: an extraordinary renewal of land and people. That’s the message of the prophet Isaiah from the first reading. He declares a restoration that seems beyond human imagination, “the desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.” God simply breathes life into everything. Isaiah’s prophecy is not just about the personification of non-living things but importantly about the new life meant for human creatures. The glory of God’s kingdom will transform everyone and like the light, will shine on all peoples. God comes to strengthen the weak, to steady feeble hands and to bring comfort to the frightened. God’s coming ushers in hope for his people. He is not a stranger as Isaiah declares, “Here is your God,” who comes “to save you.” God’s presence will open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf. It will make the lame walk. God is the one to break all barriers and bring everyone into one fold.

Isn’t that what Christ demonstrated by his presence in the gospel? John is in prison when Christ makes his public appearance. John hears the miracles that Christ is performing. John knows the characteristics of this Messiah whose coming he vehemently proclaimed and defended. He is imprisoned for the same reason. Is John upset that Christ does not come to free him from the prison gates? Maybe he is a bit worried. He seems anxious, perhaps wants to confirm that he was bearing an authentic witness. John sends for verification. He sends his disciples to find out from Christ himself, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” John wants to hear from the man whose coming he announced, the one whose sandals he stated that he wouldn’t be able to unstrap.  

Jesus’ response to John’s disciples goes back to the prophecy of Isaiah in the Old Testament. He invites them to see for themselves; it is called “evidence-based” treatment. His vocation is to make all things new, to bring back hope for hopeless humanity. For Jesus, it is not only about what they hear, but also about the proofs of the transcendental presence of God among his people. He says to them, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Matt. 11:4-5). It’s like saying to them:  “Ask John, isn’t that what he proclaimed? Isn’t that the meaning of his preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near?”

Having addressed them, Jesus makes a remark which I think is what considering here, “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me” (Matt. 11:6). Remember that John is in prison at this time. He is suffering for Christ, for preaching and for defending the Messiah. John preached repentance because Christ was coming. Now, he sends his disciples to confirm from Jesus if he is the one or not. Using human terms, we might conclude that John might be sad at what was happening. That John seems frustrated that Jesus isn’t organizing a crusade against the government that has incarcerated him. But that’s not what John does here. He sends his disciples to gently confirm from Jesus, that way, he knows that he is suffering for the real person. John does not seem to regret his experience. That is why Jesus declares John “blessed.” He does not take offense at Jesus. Joh. Gets the cleanest credential.

A few days ago, someone called me and was very furious with God. She is sick and the mom is sick too. This lady is the one taking care of the mom. But she is not able to do that now because of her poor health condition. She is angry for several reasons. She feels guilty that she is not able to take care of her mom. She can’t do what she does ordinarily. Before now, she’s been angry at God for not making her mom well all these years, in fact, for making her mom sick. Now she is twice angry at God for letting her get sick and not able to attend to her mom. Her anger might be founded but the question is whether that would help. Of course, not! 

Using John the Baptist’s case, Christ teaches us another way to deal with suffering. Unite your suffering with Christ’s suffering. It becomes a transforming experience, one that liberates. John is not freed from the human prison but receives the affirmation of a totally freed person in the kingdom of heaven. Christ writes his credentials. He declares John to be the greatest born of women not because simply because of his steadfastness. He gives John the best assessment that God could ever give to any human being. 

As John’s disciples leave, Jesus speaks of his mission and the reward that awaits John. John is a prophet. He spent his time mostly in the desert. John is firm and convinced about what he preached. John isn’t worried about material things. John is God’s messenger, sent ahead to prepare the way for the Messiah. Jesus declares, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11). What an assessment! When God bears witness for a human being, eternity is guaranteed.  

As we prepare for the coming of Christ, let us pray that God gives us a clean credential. A clean credential comes from bearing witness with our lives. A clean credential comes from commitment. A clean credential comes from steadfastness in the midst of suffering. A clean credential comes through spiritual transformation, the poor in spirit. It comes when we understand the will of God in our lives and let it reign supreme. Even if God does not give you the immediate desires of your heart (possibly physical wellness), spiritual healing is important. St. James says, “Do not complain, brothers and sisters,” then Christ says, “Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” A clean credential is given to the one who does not complain against God. With a clean credential, the least in heaven is greater than the greatest on earth. God gives the cleanest credential.   

 

Dec. 7, 2019

Readings: 1st- Is. 11:1-10; 2nd- Rom. 15:4-9; Gospel- Matt. 3:1-2

“PRODUCE GOOD FRUIT AS EVIDENCE OF YOUR REPENTANCE”

The first reading describes the shoot from the stump of Jesse. The characteristics of this shoot are as follows:

-its roots shall produce a blossoming bud

-the Lord will rest on him

-he shall embody wisdom and understanding

-he will be filled with the spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.

The hallmark of this shoot is justice, for he shall judge the poor and the afflicted with justice. This shoot shall bring peace and shall restore harmony to the created order. Imagine this scenario where the wolf and the lamb would dine together, the leopard and the kid share their space, the calf and the young lion collaborate, with a little child guiding them. The cow and the bear shall become neighbors while the baby plays with cobra’s den. That means a completely new world order would be restored made possible by the presence of this shoot from Jesse.

Isaiah’s prophecy has two dimensions- transforming the past and recreating the new. If we track back to the garden of Eden, “The Lord God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them” (Gen. 2:19). God’s creation was all good before the Fall. Wild and tame animals lived together without fear. Human being shared the company of other creatures and was fine with it. The created universe maintained a harmonious space characterized by peace and equanimity. However, man’s disobedience destroyed this beauty and introduced chaos into the world. The shoot from the stump of Jesse will restore creation to wholeness. 

Isaiah’s prophecy also ushers in newness. It will bring transformation in the lives of many, especially those who feel abandoned. The prophet echoes, “On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious” (Is. 11:10). It announces hope for those on the margins. Saint Paul writes, “For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises of the patriarchs, but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Rom. 15:8). In the Old Testament, Jesse was the father of David, who was the king of Israel. The infancy narrative of Christ links him up with the lineage of David and begins this way, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). Jesus is that shoot from the stock of Jesse, the fulfillment of the Davidic dynasty. During his public proclamation, Jesus put this question to the Pharisees, “What is your opinion about the Messiah? Whose son is he? They replied, David’s” (Matt. 22:41-43).

The shoot from the stump of Jesse points to the New Testament Messiah who will bring all things into harmony. His mission is to have all people saved. At the presentation in the temple, Simeon held the infant Jesus in his hands and exclaimed, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;  for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Lk. 2:29-32). That is the shoot, the base of Jesse’s root, the signal of all nations and the light to the Gentiles. Christ’s coming brings restoration and salvation.

The focus of today’s gospel seems to be John the Baptist. Scripture maintains, “John the Baptist appeared preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:1). John is depicted as having lived an austere life. His clothes were made of camel’s hair. He had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locust and wild honey. John is referred to like that voice crying out in the desert, inviting everyone to repentance. John’s preaching was very direct. He challenged the Pharisees and the Sadducees to live up to the gospel. John’s goal was not to impress his crowd. He was not interested in making his listeners feel good. He was interested in making them discover Jesus and be saved. John was on the scene, but Jesus was at the center of his message, “the one who is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” John delivered the good news to his audience.

What stood out in the gospel is John’s invitation to action. He said to his listeners, “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” Why don’t we go with this message home today?:

  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your faith.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your being a child of God, a Catholic.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your marriage.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your being a husband/wife, son/daughter, brother/sister.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your being a parent/grandparent, inlaw.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your profession- a teacher, lawyer, engineer, etc.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your being a politician, a public servant.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of being a first responder- police, fireman, etc.
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of being in the helping profession (social worker, therapist, counselor, a medical practitioner (nurse, doctor, lab technician).
  • Produce good fruit as evidence of your Christmas celebration.
  • Use your opportunity, position or talent to produce good fruit.

Our concern should be what kind of good fruit are we called to produce. I’m not sure if the size of the fruit matters as much as the willingness. Every little good fruit is significant. Just do something good, something that affects the lives of others positively! For instance, it doesn’t matter whether you’re able to give out a pair of socks or a piece of clothing to someone. It doesn’t matter if you’re able to give a cup of water or a plate of food. It doesn’t matter whether you’re able to visit those in prison or those in the hospital. What matters is that you do it, do something. Saint James tells us that faith without good deeds is dead. Advent offers us one great opportunity to show our good deeds, to match up to our faith with action. It is a time to stock up our storehouses/barns with good deeds. John produced his evidence in a way different from Christ, yet their evidence bore good fruit. Produce yours! Do not presume to say that you’re a Christian if you cannot do something special for others at Christmas. 

 

Dec. 1, 2019

Readings: 1st- Is. 2:1-5; 2nd- 13:11-14; Gospel- Matt. 24:37-44

Stay Awake: Can this just be another advent for you?

Here comes another advent! What difference does it make? Maybe, just that this is 2019. Is that how it feels? It is just another year, and perhaps a different feel. That can be true if we don’t pay attention to the message of the Scriptures if we don’t understand the uniqueness of the opportunity that Christ gives to us. It can feel that way if we focus on the celebrations of the festive period only. We busy ourselves with how much shopping we are to do, how tall our Christmas trees would be, how much lighting to have inside and around the house, how many gifts we are going to wrap, and how much cooking we are going to do. There could be a lot more. Hence, it is possible to celebrate Christmas without advent. What is the difference? Advent is the process while Christmas is the content.

Think about it this way- cooking in your house and eating out aren’t the same thing. It might be exciting to eat out but you don’t always get your choice/favorite taste. When you cook in your house, you pay attention to the ingredients or the recipe you are using. When you eat out, you eat what you’re presented with. The waitresses in the restaurant presents the menu and you make your choice. Sometimes, you end up receiving what isn’t very pleasing and tasteful to you. Yet, you have to eat it and say the food is very delicious. You are not part of the process. You are not part of the preparation, so you can’t control what is used in the cooking. You consume the content.

The readings of today tell us about being part of the process of the coming of Christ; stay awake! Staying awake means being part of the process both physically and spiritually. It is an invitation to climb the mountain of the Lord as echoed by the prophet Isaiah. This mountain is established as the highest of the mountains with everyone streaming to it. It is a mountain requiring strength and vigor. Those who walk on the Lord’s mountain convert their weapons of war into tools of witnessing for God, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks.” Nations will cease fighting against another with everyone concentrating on the mountain of the Lord. God’s people will simply walk in the light of the gospel.

Saint Paul reminds us about the uniqueness of our salvation story by using a paradox of night and day. The night is ordinarily a time for sleeping and relaxing. It represents some form of laziness and in some cases, a time of carrying out negative and evil activities. Saint Paul uses the image of the night to invite Christians to an awakening from their spiritual slumber. That the night is far gone, and the day at hand points to what theologians refer to as the “already and the not yet of our salvation.” We are part of the dawn brought about by the death and resurrection of Christ. We belong to the day, not to the night. While living in this Light of Christ, we are still waiting for his second coming which is uncertain. Paul invites us to throw off everything that belongs to the darkness and put on the armor of light. He states, “let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy” (Rom. 13:13). Only then can we put on Christ who himself is the Light of the world, the Light of love, joy and peace.

Christ says, “Therefore, stay awake.” “So, too, you must be prepared.” The people of Noah’s time failed to recognize that. They were taken unawares by the flood. They kept themselves engaged with eating and drinking, with partying and merriments. Christ warns us that it can still happen in our time if we don’t pay attention to the gospel. It does not matter whom we are connected to -husband or wife, friend or relative, colleague or boss. What matters is only how we conduct our lives in relation to our spiritual good. The relevance of advent is, therefore, an opportunity to stay awake, to be prepared for the coming of the Messiah. While we get physically and materially ready for the Christmas, we also need to get spiritually ready. How do we get prepared? I will suggest some ways for you:

  • Have you ever considered attending a retreat during the advent? Advent has four weeks in it. It is possible to attend a retreat with your family, just one retreat. Maybe, a retreat will cost you some money because you must pay for it. Can you set aside a day of spiritual recollection in your house? Just a few hours of prayer. I can give you some schedule to do it if you want. Call me and we’ll work it out.

 

  • Have you ever considered reading the Scriptures as a family? Think about a Bible sharing twice every week for the four weeks of advent? You might take one of the gospels or the Psalms as your focus. That might help your family members to deepen your knowledge about the mystery of the incarnation, life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. In the end, you might have some questions that you would want to ask. Feel free to contact a priest or someone who might help you and talk about it.

 

 

  • Have you ever considered volunteering for some charity? Maybe you’ve been so busy with work and family schedules that you don’t have the time to do something out of your busy schedule. Look for some opportunity to volunteer during these four weeks. An opportunity to serve might be a way to deepen your commitment to the human course in view of Christmas.

 

  • Make out time for confessions during this advent. Within these four weeks, get a priest and confess your sins. You might not have gone for a long time, it does not matter. Go to a priest, tell him that you’ve forgotten how to do it. I’m sure he will help you. Even if you think you don’t have mortal sin, go. Confess those little ones -bad thoughts, bad talks, bad looks, upsets on the road, flashes of anger at rough drivers, lateness to activities. There’s a lot of things we do on a daily basis. Do not be afraid. Go and be cleaner. Wear a new spiritual robe for Christmas.

 

 

  • Have you ever set aside something specifically for charity to the poor? Can you dedicate one-tenth of your budget for Christmas shopping and do something for the poor. It might be winter clothing, socks, hat, or some other thing that might keep the man/woman in the streets warm. Give it to someone at the end of the advent. It would make a difference in a person’s life.

 

  • Have you ever visited a homebound or someone in the hospital without knowing who the person was? Do you know the joy someone in the hospital bed feels by having someone walk in and say, “I just came around to support you during this time? I came to see how you’re doing, to tell you that you’re being thought of in a special way this time. Take courage, Jesus loves you.” Even if the person is not conscious, meeting with the family and offering some words of encouragement makes a huge difference. Do that within this advent. It might be something new.  

Trying one of these might be the uniqueness of your 2019 advent. You need not do all, just one. Do it conscientiously, that means with the intention that it is part of your advent journey. It might not be easy as you start but it gets easier along the line. Let’s do something for the spirit, that’s the invitation from today’s readings at the beginning of advent. Saint Paul states, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval” (Rom. 14:17-18).

May God help us to stay awake at the coming of Christ.

  

Dec. 22, 2018

Mary’s Surprise Gift to Elizabeth

Readings: 1st- Micah 5:1-4; 2nd- Heb. 10:5-10; Gospel- Lk. 1:39-45

 On December 20th, Pope Francis stated in his homily, “God lowers himself, God enters history and does so in his original style: a surprise. The God of surprises surprises us (again).” He was alluding to the incarnation of Christ and the encounter between the angel and the Blessed Virgin Mary at the annunciation. The Pope pointed out that Christmas presents us with series of surprises from God. One such surprise is the pregnancy of Elizabeth at a very old age, then the visitation of the Virgin Mary which is the story we hear in the gospel of today. God lowers himself to visit humanity through the incarnation. Divinity lowers himself in the womb of Mary to visit John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth.

In the first reading, the prophet Micah speaks about the coming messiah. Bethlehem, considered as one of the smallest clans of Judah produces the great king. What a surprise! Micah remarks that this king shall stand firm as the shepherd of his flock surrounded by majesty. His greatness will reach the ends of the earth. About his rulership, not with sword or spectacle of power, rather, “He shall be peace” (Mic. 5:4). This title is similar to the prophecy of Isaiah about the birth of a messiah for Israel put this way, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us… They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:5). Bethlehem hosts this Prince of Peace just as the Virgin Mary hosts the Son of God. A surprise!

The drama of the visitation begins this way, “Mary sets out” to experience the joy of the miraculous pregnancy of Elizabeth. The Lectors’ workbook for 2019 recognizes four actors in this drama: “the Old Testament, personified in Elizabeth; the New Testament, represented by the young Virgin; divine Grace incarnate, present in the Virgin’s pregnancy, and John the Baptist, in Elizabeth’s womb.” We might consider two things in this great encounter: one is the surprise emanating from the visit; the other is the acknowledgment of the unborn child. 

Regarding the first, we see Elizabeth who represents the old history depicted by barrenness. Here, this old history is encountering the light of God’s grace and favor represented by the Virgin Mary. Elizabeth’s story changes, she is transformed. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth declares how much of her history becomes past. She connects with Mary’s favor, “Blessed are you among women.” Then she echoes the privilege arising from that favor, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me” (Lk.1:43). Elizabeth partakes in the newness of God’s love irrespective of her old age. She represents the prophecy of Isaiah which states, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (9:2). This corroborates the angel’s message to Mary about her, “…and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God” (Lk. 1:36-37).

John, who will later describe himself as the “voice” leaps and dances for joy at the encounter with Grace Incarnate. John the Baptist seems to be the greatest beneficiary of the visit as Jesus’ forerunner. He leaps with joy at the presence of the one whose sandals he will not be fit to undo. John dances before the Ark of the New Covenant, the Blessed Virgin Mary. He embraces the great Light right inside his mother’s womb. 

Mary’s visit offers Elizabeth the greatest gift ever, gifts wrapped in simplicity and affection of the Blessed Virgin. The joy of Elizabeth is captured in the dance performed by the infant in her womb. Mary, on her part, carries God’s surprise for her cousin. The infant Jesus is the Gift, the reason for the dance. 

Equally, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth shows the value and dignity of the unborn. The encounters here depict the respect which both Elizabeth and Mary show to their unborn babies. Mary hears the angel’s message, sets out to visit Elizabeth. Elizabeth recognizes the child in Mary’s womb, John leaps in the womb. Here, we see series of affection and appreciation of the dignity of the human person right form the womb. Elizabeth greets not just the Virgin Mary but mostly the child in her womb as she exclaims, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk. 1:42). The incarnation of Christ reminds us of the sanctity of the unborn child. Like John the Baptist, infants in the womb share in their parents’ joys as well as in their sorrows. We must realize not only the biology of pregnancy but its spirituality. We must anticipate and promote freedom for the unborn. The unborn is blessed. The unborn is a gift. The unborn is a source of joy and in turn wants to be joyful. The unborn needs to be listened to, appreciated like Elizabeth and Mary appreciated the infants Jesus and John the Baptist. We must protect the unborn.

As Christmas comes very close, let us emulate Mary and Elizabeth in communicating joys to those around us. Let us appreciate the need to be with one another during this time. Mary reminds us to share gifts and presents with loved ones, to reach out to those in need. We all have been blessed by God in various ways. It is not all about material or monetary gifts. It is mostly about our comforting and positive presence. Think of what you do to another person during this season. The best gift is to make others leap for joy. It doesn’t matter how little it is. What matters is the impact of such. Let us be that symbol of joy to one another. Let us be the surprise that others would experience. If God has surprised us, we must in turn, surprise others.