Sunday, December 24, 2006

How Small He Became

The Gospel of this Fourth Sunday of Advent (which is also the entire fourth week of Advent) recounts the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and recognized the great work that God was carrying out in Mary. An important point is how she came to know this. What was the sign that pointed it out? It wasn't anything big or spectacular. Mary was not bathed in a heavenly light, or arrayed in gold and silver, or preceded by a fanfare of angelic trumpets. Rather, Elizabeth felt the baby move within her, leap for joy at God's presence and the fulfillment of the promise. How often in the history of the world has a baby kicked within the womb? How normal, uneventful, small such a thing is in the scheme of world history. And yet, it was through such a small thing that God opened Elizabeth's heart to reveal to her the great mystery present in her young cousin coming to visit. This reveals to us so much of what the Incarnation is all about. And calls us to remember what Christmas means. I don't think we should waste our time or energy railing against the commercialism or glitter or political correctness battles. Rather, we should take time to listen to God speaking in the midst of it all in the seemingly ordinary and small things.
That, I think, was one of the great secrets of St. Francis. He looked for God in the small things of every day. In the stars and the sun, in the lepers and the poor, the prelates and the rich, in the daily joys and sorrows. And Christmas for him was a reminder that God was there in all those things.
Where did he learn that? From Mary, who teaches us to pay attention, to ponder these things in our hearts, and to proclaim the greatness of the Lord.
Merry Christmas! Blessings and Peace always!

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