|Reading for Mass
Psalms 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
Today we are in the shortest Fourth Week of Advent possible, just a few hours. I have a feeling that I should write this quickly and briefly so as to not get in the way of Christmas’ liturgies. Short and fast seem to be key words of today’s readings.
Bethlehem is mentioned in the First Reading as being “too small to be among the clans of Judah, ... .” This is not an unusual pattern in God’s relations with us. Small nations such as Israel, small men such as Abraham, Moses, Hosea and Joseph, small women such as Sarah, Ruth and Mary, all seem to form a constellation of heavenly stars.
Always, from and through the unimportant, come the significant, the carriers, those who treasure the sacred. From and through these small, come the great works, the wondrous and salvific. The Prophet Micah sings of little Bethlehem, “from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; ... .” The greatness of this “one Who is to come” is both His lineage and His labors. God seems to take the lowly, little and least to do the great works of salvation and always as a result of their trusting the One Who calls and not their own importance.
The Gospel for today is known as “The Visitation.” We will hear the little-known Mary going with haste to visit her older cousin whom she knows to be pregnant herself. The angel leaves Mary, and Mary leaves quickly, as the first chalice carrying the message made flesh, though still quite small. It is the first Advent and Mary is announced as blest among women as she brings Jesus among His people. You Mary, too small to be among the clans of the great, from you shall all the promises made, now be kept.
“Much-by-little” seems to be God’s ways. Around our Christmas trees this day, presents are adventing their bringing of love and joy. There are the large ones whose identities might be hard to conceal. They can say much too. It is the littler ones, which are easy to overlook.
It is the present that makes a real visitation that stops us for a while. It is the small box, which brings with it a note. The note, the words, the heart of one other person reaching into ours and making the “little child” within us leap for joy that somebody knows us so intimately and shares so deeply even this little, but personally meaningful, sacrament.
Here ends my small and quick reflection. As you have prepared a gift with a certain person in mind, so God does this night and every day, and every moment, wrapping up divine love in little packages of time and space. They are small and quickly gone to be replaced by the same loving hand. God makes many visitations bringing us to our knees or feet or to the arms of others. Little Fourth Week of Advent, for us, be an unwrapping day for us who wait to be wrapped in Your love again this Christmas night.
“The virgin is with child and shall bare a son, and she will call him Emmanuel.”
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