A Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Advent
By: Becky O'Neil McBrayer
Advent is a time of great hope as we anticipate the birth of our Holy Redeemer — the one who will proclaim Life, and will ultimately suffer execution for us, at the hands of the State.
The Gospel according to St. Luke is filled with mercy, compassion, and hope. Today's reading is a beautiful and personal encounter of two women who share the amazing things God has done for them at a time of tremendous anxiety.
Mary travels to her cousin with a sense of urgency. In faith, we need the help and support of each other — and sometimes there is a sense of urgency for that support. We are Catholic community. Mary and Elizabeth shared secrets of faith and they truly needed each other for support and strength during such a strange scenario. Don't we all need visitations in our lives from time to time?
We must seek out wise people in order to be bearers of peace. We must reach out to others in our times of need, and we must also be present to others with compassion and support in their times of need. Mary and Elizabeth are our models.
We remember that Advent and Christmastime are not joyful for some, while feelings of anxiety and deep grief emerge following the loss of loved ones to violence. Yet we are called to be Christ's love, mercy, healing and hope to one another. We were called by the fruit of Mary's womb.
Redemption is born in forgotten places, and a new world order is forming in this Visitation: the new way of love and mercy as proclaimed by the Prince of Peace. This is where restorative justice begins. St. John the Baptist in Elizabeth's womb moves with joy at the very presence of Jesus in Mary's womb, and the elder mother is filled with the Holy Spirit. During this Advent, may we, too, be filled with the Holy Spirit and experience the hope and joy of faith as we encounter Jesus in our own lives!
This passage reminds us that our God dwells in those who have been shut out of the powers that be, and that our omnipotent and omnibenevolent Creator chooses to work through those on the margins. May we also demonstrate the love of our Holy Redeemer, as we live out mercy for those who cause the worst human pain by taking another's life. Those on death rows. Those who are not saints.
Redemption is born in forgotten places... in mangers and in prisons.
We don't get to choose our calling, right? We only get to choose our response. Let us choose Life! Let us continue to anticipate with great hope!
God of Mercy, fill us with the eagerness, compassion, love, humility, gratitude and joy of Saints Mary and Elizabeth during Advent and beyond, and bless our mothers with your peace, always. Amen.
Becky O'Neil McBrayer is a murder victims' family member and the sister
of one who has murdered. She is an Executive Board Member
of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and a
Catholic advocate for death penalty repeal.