On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we look forward with great excitement to the feast of Christmas. We are confident that the Saviour, who became incarnate more than two thousand years ago, is that very same Messiah who leads us today as we journey towards eternal life.
We are excited, as children are, by the prospect of the joyous nature of Christmas Day itself. As people of hope and faith, we temporarily put aside the cares and anxieties of daily life and allow ourselves to be filled with the spirit of bonhomie that characterises the season.
Christian life calls us to share in the joy that comes from God Almighty. We are not called to be a people of gloom, despite the troubles that surround us, but to reflect the Divinity of Christ, the source of true and abiding joy.
It is instructive to reflect on the experience of Elizabeth in today’s gospel reading. It was the voice of her cousin, Mary, to which Elizabeth responded. At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately recognised that her cousin was carrying the Lord whose coming Israel awaited. Elizabeth’s own baby, John, leapt for joy in her womb at Mary’s greeting.
Neither of these women had foreseen themselves pregnant at this stage of their lives. Elizabeth had already passed child-bearing age, and Mary was a virgin. Each had responded to the bidding of the Almighty, through the voices of angels. In so doing, they both became instruments of God’s will.
Our lives are filled with sound, sound that can be soothing, supportive, inspiring, or chaotic and destructive. We would do well to listen carefully to the voices that call to us on an almost constant basis.
In our families, we must listen with careful attention to the voices of our spouses, our children, our parents. Engrossed in the technology, without which we think we cannot exist, we don’t really always hear the voices that beg for our attention. Constantly ‘connected’, we have forgotten what true familial connection is. Equally important, we must listen to the sound of our own voice. The strident, unloving, and judgmental tone has no place in the family setting. It can destroy trust, hope and peace. It can suffocate the need and desire to express tenderness, harmony, and love.
In our parishes, too, God’s work can only be conducted when parishioners open their hearts as they hone their listening skills. All are journeying together, and clamour and gossip are contrary to good interpersonal and team relationships.
Similarly, the workplace can only be a place of productivity if voices of affirmation, of respectful guidance and of justice dominate the environment.
Politically, neither this nor any other country can allow itself to follow voices that speak words of disunity and destructiveness, of arrogance and contempt, of disregard for the dignity of the people and disregard for basic human rights.
Our politicians are called upon to speak words of truth and wisdom. Now, perhaps more than ever, we need leaders with clarity of vision, with genuine care for our people and with voices that speak life and peace and inspire creativity and genuine development in every sphere of life.
Blessed are we who, like Mary, believe that the promises made by our God to be with us until the end of time, are promises that will always be fulfilled.