Homily: Standing on the Threshold

There is electricity in a crowd waiting in line,  anxious for doors to be opened. This is true at a movie or sports event or on the first day of a sale. Those present can hardly wait; they feel that they are on the threshold of something marvelous.

That’s where we are today. The readings prepare us for the upcoming feast of Christmas, giving us glimpses into the mysteries we will be celebrating. They bring together the major themes of the first three Sundays of Advent: promise and hope, repentance and response, transformation and joy.

Now we stand on the threshold, eager for the doors to be opened so that we can step inside and enjoy the marvels prepared for us there.

Today’s readings open the door a crack, and we are amazed at how ordinary everything is inside. We see Bethlehem, an unsophisticated little village that is but a stone’s throw from the thriving capital, Jerusalem. Though remembered as the birthplace of the great king David, Bethlehem never really made a name for itself in any other way. To the side we see a young pregnant woman hastening to help an older relative who is also with child. There is nothing extraordinary about this.

And something extraordinary occurs between the two women. The lives within the sanctuaries of their wombs recognize each other. The encounter is out in the open, yet seen by no one.

Why does God choose what is ordinary to carry the radiance of the divine? Might it be that we mistake what is loud and flashy for what is truly marvelous?

Whatever the case, God’s choices recounted in today’s readings should encourage all of us. The mystery of the Incarnation comes to ordinary people living ordinary lives. All that’s required is openness to do God’s will, willingness to respond to God’s call.

According to the author of Hebrews in our second reading today, such obedience was the motivating force in Jesus’ life: “I come to do your will,” he says. As we stand on the threshold of the feast, we begin to realize that the radiance of God can shine forth through faithfulness in the ordinary events of life.              Dianne Bergant

It is good to look closer into this encounter between Mary and Elizabeth. We’re not told how Mary came to know about the pregnancy of Elizabeth, but her response is prompt and generous. She drops everything, as it were, and hurries to the home of her cousin who is about to bear a child in her old age.

This meeting of the two miraculously pregnant women thus signals a new era of God’s intervention in human history. In fact, both of these pregnancies have required a special grace from God.

Life Implications

This scene which portrays the meeting of two pregnant women who will be the agents of God’s merciful purposes in our history is rich in symbolic significance. In a world where violence and oppression seem to dominate everything, we see that the course of history will change through the actions of two women intent on protective love and alert to intervention of God’s power. Their sons will be major forces in God’s plans for Israel and for the world; but these same sons will be indelibly stamped with the imprint of two women who knew instinctively that the protective and nurturing love of mothers is an ideal to which we all must aspire.

There is also a lesson here about the importance of allowing one’s plans and schedules to be modified by the needs of others. Mary must have had other things to do, but she made room in her life for a long journey in order to be with someone who needed her presence, if only to share their common joy.

In this powerful and gracious meeting of women about to affirm life is also a wonderful model for us who are trying to be ready for the feast of Christmas. Mary and Elizabeth are indeed precious gifts to each other, even as they share God’s gift to them. What better examples could we find of the kind of loving generosity that represents the true meaning of God’s gift to us in the person of his beloved Son?

There is also a profound symbolism in the meeting of these two women who are about to bring forth new life and who are more than willing to protect and nurture their precious infants–so vulnerable and yet so full of promise. In an age when the “culture of death” is so prevalent, these women offer a splendid example of a resounding affirmation of life.   Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Might you be overlooking or even ignoring certain persons in your life, who might be the very entryway for you to a deeper relationship with the Lord?  In what small situations do you see the glory of God? Make it a point to pray to see the simplicity of God’s presence in the ordinary things of this Christmas Season.

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