Luke 1: 39-45
39 In those days Mary arose, and hastened to the mountainous region of Judah. 40 She went into Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When she heard the greeting, she felt the child she bore flutter and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, 42 exclaimed with all her strength, "Great! How you have been filled with the loving care of God more than any other woman, and how the child you are carrying has been filled as well! 43 But how is it that I have the privilege of having the visit of the mother of the messiah? 44 For as soon as the sound of your salutation has come to my ears, the child I am carrying has trembled with joy. 45 Bravo, for the one who dared to believe that the Lord will give a follow-up to all the words that he has said to her, until their complete fulfillment."
A little brother or a little sister?
Gospel commentary - Homily
We live in a difficult time. It seems to me that we are so far from the time when everything seemed possible, where we sang, "It's the beginning of a new era!", Where we thought we could change the world. We are rather at failures. In Cancun, Mexico, we have just recognized that it is impossible to reach an agreement between rich and poor countries in terms of agriculture. In my workplace, we only talk about projects that must be abandoned because of a lack of funds. A parent recently described to me the rotten atmosphere at the factory, following a nearly year-long strike, and fears of losing his job. Even among Christians, the atmosphere has become gloomy. The churches are closing, active Christians are reorganized under new pastoral units, trying to make a traditional structure work somehow. And even pope John Paul II, out of breath, barely able to move, symbolizes an aged world.
In this context, this Sunday's gospel story is a shock. The strong images follow one another: a woman rises full of energy and quickly crosses a region of mountains to reach a village in the south of the country; her cousin, on seeing her, shouts her joy with all her might, for she sees such marvelous things to happen, and through her, it is a whole nation who can foresee a bright future with the coming of a messiah. We have the impression of being in the morning of the world, the sun rises, birds chirp, two children will be born, life is beautiful, everything is possible.
To understand this gospel scene, I remind myself the eyes of this colleague of mine, a woman previously childless, when she got the date of her departure for China, where she was waiting for a little girl of 8 months, entrusted to adoption; her eyes shone, her whole body shone, she was out of this world. I also think back to this couple, both widows following the events of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center in New York, who met and fell in love: they found themselves talking for hours, without being able to stop, having the feeling of living a fairy tale.
I who belong to a morose world, I receive this gospel as a shock, with a note of envy. Why can we not experience the same? Is it really possible? Is the Gospel not an invitation to a world of illusions? No doubt it is necessary to take the time to live these feelings and these questions, before making this immense realization: I can become Mary, this woman who stands up and crosses the mountains with energy, I can be Elizabeth who, looking around, sees people being pampered and fulfilled beyond measure, and celebrating the hope of a whole nation. But how? The answer is in Elizabeth's mouth: "If you dare to believe that the Lord will give a follow-up to all the words he said, until they are completely fulfilled."
To believe is to see the invisible, and therefore to see that child I am bearing. You, like me, we all carry within us a mystery of life, a love that is beyond us, that we feel more present or absent in certain days. Only faith allows you to see it constantly. This is what supported Jesus, allowed him to act differently than others and led him to speak of the Kingdom of God. We carry the same mystery of love, the same world that needs to be born. We would like to see this world already born, full-fledged, with his adult stature, when in fact he is partly invisible, and it is our responsibility to bring him to life.
This world will appear to us as a new day that rises or as a night that declines, depending on whether we look at it with the eyes of faith or not. When the disciples, who have fished vainly all night, answer Jesus, "On your word, we will continue to fish", they discover the dawn of the world. But beware! I will be even more able to see the wonderful reality that is being born that I avoid a trap: hoping that my child will be simply a clone of who I am. It's impossible! To be born is to become another. Only faith and love allow us to rejoice in it.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us realize that this Jesus to be born is in our midst, that all hopes are allowed, and that the Lord will give a follow up to all the words he has spoken, until their full accomplishment.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, September 2003