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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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This weekend the Holy year of Mercy is underway throughout the world and we light the third purple candle on the Advent wreath.  Last Sunday we opened the doors of mercy in our diocesan centers of mercy and opening the door means much more than just simply opening a door. We usually open a door to let someone in of course we also close the door to keep people out as well. In the sense of this Holy Year opening the door means that we open ourselves up to let the grace and mercy of the Father into our hearts and minds. I think that one of the ways we might show mercy to others these days is in our treatment of the refugees from other countries as they come to live in our communities in the days ahead.

The final Sunday of Advent draws us closer to the celebration of the Christmas mysteries. Christmas is almost upon us: yet are we ready in the true sense of the word remembering that Jesus is the reason for the season? Christmas we are told is a time for so many things  yet for many of us it is a time of stress and pressure with all the extra work to sort out every­thing that needs to be done.  For many it is a time when we are fearful that the children won’t be disappointed or that there won’t be tension in relationships or there won’t be a breakdown in the ceasefire with the in-laws.  And on top of all this there is a feeling of guilt for feeling like this when we should be happier that we are. Now in the midst of the preparations we meet Mary and her cousin Elisabeth in our Gospel reading for this weekend. Mary, who herself had been prepared for the coming of the Messiah. She has received the angel’s greeting, and his strange news, and has accepted her role in God’s plan.

Now she hurries to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who herself bears John the Baptist in her womb. John, alerts us to the presence of the Lord, as he leaps for joy in his mother’s womb. His joy is that God has kept his promise, and is with his people.  That two women were chosen to play such a role in the story of salvation is remarkable, as women were often marginalized in the society of their time. In all of these events we see the great mission that Mary undertook as a privileged instrument in the hands of God. Mary is not only the mother of the source of grace; she is the very model of what a Christian heart should look like. We look to Mary to see our fullest Christian dig­nity. In Lumen Gentium 68, Vatican II describes our contem­plation of Mary as an act of entering our own deepest mystery, catching a glimpse of what we shall he at the end of our faith journey.

Over the next few days the journey to Christmas will have many pressures for everyone especially those who are worried or afraid about so many things family and otherwise.  Mary in her calm gentle way encourages us to trust in God’s word and to believe in God’s promises as she did. If we believe and have trust in God as Mary did then all the problems that might arise will assume their proper perspective and we will get through them and come out the other side wondering why we got so worried in the first place.

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