My homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent

4th Sunday of Advent (c) 2018

Last Thursday I went to Victoria where I had a coffee with one of my nieces. I hadn’t seen her since I learned that she was pregnant, five months ago. I met her outside Westminster Cathedral. I didn’t notice any bump. So we sat down and talked about the baby that was in her womb. She knew it was going to be a girl; as they do these days. She was excited and couldn’t wait till April. We talked about what name she would give it. I couldn’t help but be excited for her.

I suppose the Blessed Virgin Mary would have had similar experiences. I’m sure all mother’s do, not that I would know, being a man. Of course, Mary wouldn’t have had a scan; actually she didn’t need one because she knew it was going to be a boy. But she would have been excited like my niece and looking forward to the day she would give birth, which in her case wouldn’t be long. She must have talked to Joseph about all sorts of things; not least where they were going to go to have the baby. They would have wanted somewhere nice and comfortable in Bethlehem; a nice warm house with a proper bed. Little did they know what was going to happen. How could they have known at that time that this tiny village of Bethlehem would be full, and that there would be no room for them.

Mary must have prayed and given God thanks. She knew that the baby would be special. Even if she hadn’t known before she would have found out when she visited her kinswoman Elizabeth. Elizabeth was pregnant with her son John, and Mary with her son Jesus. In Ein Kerim where Elizabeth lived there is today a special statue, or statutes, of the two women when they first meet. They are not saying anything, not hugging, they are just looking into each others eyes: each one knew that they had been blessed with a child. Words, it seemed, were unnecessary. Elizabeth gazed into Mary’s eyes and she knew; she knew something very special was about to happen.

I don’t know if my niece is praying, is thanking God for the gift of her child, I hope so. But we can be sure that Mary was. Oh how she must have been praying now that she was about to give birth. All that had happened to her was a gift; the fact that God chose her, that she was to give birth to His son; that God became man in her womb. What a mystery! Yes, I suspect Mary prayed and prayed at this time: praying that all would go well, that nothing would go wrong at the last minute; that the child would be born healthy.

Only a few more days to go; who can imagine what Mary must have been thinking; what thoughts were going through her head as she travelled down from Nazareth to Bethehem. All the time making sure that nothing would happen to damage the child; being super careful when she got on and off the donkey. Her body wasn’t her own any more; it now belonged to two people: herself and her baby. But her baby came first. She must have prayed that she wouldn’t give birth on the way, on the side of the road, with no one to help; in the freezing cold. But as always she trusted in God, that all would be well. She gave thanks to him for such a gift. She would have been so grateful too to have Joseph at her side; a good man, a noble hardworking man. He was another gift from God.

Yes, soon all would be over. She would give birth. And then for the first time the world would see something only she and Joseph knew: that God had chosen her to be the mother of His son. And the world would never be the same again. Not only for Mary but also for us who look forward once more to the birth of Christ; we too should pray and ask for the grace to understand the mystery of God becoming one of us.

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