Fourth Sunday in Advent
In today’s readings we see the promise and fulfilment of the good things that God has prepared for those who love him. As the nativity of Our Lord draws ever closer, the readings seek to make us aware of the closeness of the Lord to his people and how great the things are that he will do for them.
In the first reading we have the promise of the birth of he “who is to rule over Israel”, in a context which makes clear that this is to be the birth of someone greatly awaited, someone whose birth will bring back the remnant of the Hebrews to Israel and who will be given power by the Lord to rule over the people of Israel.
The second reading from Hebrews comments on this promise by making clear that what the Lord truly desires from his people are not sacrifices and offerings but the holiness of heart that is made possible for us by Christ’s offering of himself on the Cross. Hebrews here emphasises that this holiness comes from obedience to the will of the Father, a theme that is picked up by the Gospel.
Our Lady, having assented to the will of the Lord as made known to her by the angel Gabriel, goes to visit her cousin. It is a this beautiful scene where these two women share in each others’ joy, that they both should be with child in such a glorious fashion. Both Mary and Elizabeth have been obedient to God’s will and now experience the greatness that this brings. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, with a joy that the unborn Baptist leaps to express, that same Spirit granting her the knowledge of the majesty of Mary’s child, that her cousin’s child is to be Immanuel, God with Us. Mary is given the singular honour of carrying and raising he who is to make holiness possible for all those who love him and humble themselves to carry out his will.