CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 24 August 2019

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Fourth Sunday of Advent - Mary: the New Ark of the Covenant

If we pay close attention to the references in the Old Testament, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth could surely nourish our faith. The Jews of that time like today’s, when they meet, they greet each other: Shalom-Peace. Prophet Isaiah called the Messiah, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5). 
 
On the lips of Mary the word peace is a solemn proclamation. It is the announcement that the awaited Messiah has come into the world and with him the reign of peace spoken of by the prophets has begun. Later the angels would sing “Peace on earth to those whom God loves” (Luke 2:14)—today the disciples of Christ speak only words of peace. “Whatever house you enter” Jesus recommended, “first bless them, saying, ‘Peace to this house’” (Luke 10:5).
 
Elizabeth says, “How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (v.43). It was uttered by David on a very solemn occasion, when the ark of the covenant in which he believed the Lord was present was transferred to Jerusalem. In receiving it, the king exclaimed: “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9). Both Mary and the ark remain three months in a house of Judea. The ark is received with dancing, shouts of joy, songs of celebration and is a source of blessings for the family that welcomes it (2 Samuel 6:10-11) and Mary entering the house of Zechariah, causes the young John to leap for joy.
 
Anywhere Mary—the new Ark of the Covenant—comes, there is an explosion of joy: the Baptist leaps for joy, Elizabeth shouts for joy at being visited by the Lord  and the poor rejoice because the time of their liberation has come. It is joy that characterises the messianic times. 
 
“Blessed is she who believed.” This is the first beatitude that is encountered in the Gospel of Luke. Take note that it is formulated in the third person (not Blessed are you …). This indicates that blessedness is not reserved for Mary, but extended to all who trust the word of the Lord. 
 
The same blessedness is found at the end of John’s gospel. The Risen Lord addressed Thomas, “Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29). Authentic faith—that which Mary shows—does not need visions, demonstrations, and verifications. It is based on listening to the Word and manifests itself in an unconditional adherence to this Word.
 
The Gospel passage ends with the Magnificat. Mary is the first to realise the wonders worked by the Lord and sings them. God turns his eyes to those who count for nothing, despised, barren, unproductive, and in a pitiful state. 
 
Mary understood that God’s gaze is not drawn by merits or spiritual perfection, but by human need. He places himself among the poor and interprets their feelings of gratitude.
 
● Father Fernando Armellini CMF
Claretian Publications
bibleclaret.org
 
Translated by Father John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Father Thomas Thennadyil CMF