Year C: CB Gospel Reading: Fourth Week of Advent Year C


Gospel reading: Luke1: 39-44.

Vs.39   Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah.

Vs.40   She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.

Vs.41   Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Vs.42   She gave a loud cry and said, “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  Why should I be honoured with a visit from the Mother of my Lord?

Vs.43   For as soon as your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.

Vs.44  Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Deeper Listening to Text.

Broader Historical Context

Traditionally the gospel for the 4th Sunday of Advent is a story that focuses on Mary in her pregnancy. This year Luke narrates Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth having been informed by the angel Gabriel that her cousin Elizabeth has conceived – indeed she is now in her sixth month.

Narrower Focus

V39-40 On hearing the news Mary set out immediately for the hill country of Judah and made her way into Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s house.

V41-44 relates the profound encounter and dialogue between these two pregnant women.

Where did this take place?

Mary’s home was in Nazareth, in south of Galilee.  Zechariah’s house was in the hill country of Judah, probably not far from Jerusalem (as Zechariah was a Priest in the temple there).  To make the journey from Nazareth on foot, as Mary did, would probably have taken 3 or 4 days.More specifically, the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth takes place in the setting of the house.

When did this happen?

This encounter happened immediately after the Annunciation.  Having said “yes” to God’s plan that she would conceive and bear a Son and name him Jesus, Mary wasted no time and made the journey to be with Elizabeth who was now well on in pregnancy.

Who was there?

Two Jewish women, Elizabeth and Mary, both about to become mothers for the first time.  These two cousins rejoice and celebrate in wonder and gratitude the new life in their wombs.

Elizabeth – Mary’s elderly cousin.  She was the wife of Zechariah, a priest of the Temple. She was well on in years “in old age”.  All her married life Elizabeth had been burdened with the stigma of childlessness, a cause of great humiliation for her in the community in which she lived.

Mary – a young girl who although betrothed to Joseph had not yet come to live with him.   Through the power of the Holy Spirit she was now “with child”.  In her “fiat” Mary manifested extraordinary faith and deep trust in God and surrendered herself and her future into God’s hands, beautifully echoed in today second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, “God, here I am. I am coming to obey your will.”

What happened?

Mary’s immediate response to the news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy was to go and to be with her. Conscious of her elderly cousin’s need Mary was determined to be by her side, supporting and helping her in the final months of her pregnancy.

Mary greeted Elizabeth from the heart – a greeting now imbued with the vitality and richness of the life she now possesses within – and the power of her greeting was a source of immense joy for Elizabeth and the child she carried within- “the child leapt in her womb leapt for joy.”  Jesus and John entered into joyful relationship in their respective mothers’ wombs

Now empowered by the Spirit Elizabeth burst out in a wonderful affirmation of Mary and the new life she carried within – “of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”.

With great gratitude and humility Elizabeth recognized Mary as “Mother of my Lord.”

Inspired by the moment Elizabeth goes on to enunciate the source of Mary’s “blessedness” – her faith and trust in God’s promise.

In the first Reading, the messianic prophet Micah echoes Mary’s trust that God will fulfill his promises. Against the backdrop of threatened invasion, injustice and incompetent leadership Micah waited with trust and hope in God’s promise to send a leader who “would stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord, with the majesty of the name of his God.  They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the earth.  He himself will be peace.” Micah 5:4

Mary and Elizabeth are models for us of advent waiting.  They know how to wait.  They wait together – affirming for each other that something wonderful is happening and it is worth waiting for!

Guidelines for Meditation 

Remember experiences of pregnancy, your own or someone close to you, and how it filled our lives with new sense of purpose and direction – “Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah….”

Remember the experience of harbouring a beautiful dream for ourselves, family, school etc. and it became for us a source of great inspiration, energy, motivation, and commitment – “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made to her would be fulfilled…”

Remember people of faith, God bearing persons, whom we have known who have been able to overcome all kinds of obstacles because of their inner life – “Blessed is she who believed…”

Remember experiences of visitation, or warm greetings from someone with a rich interior life of faith that were a source of great joy and inner peace for you or for others – “As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting…

Remember significant encounters with others which have instilled new life in us, awakened new energies, and brought out the best in us, “…the child in my womb leapt for joy…”

Remember experiences of gift that have truly overwhelmed us with a sense of “Why me?” “What did I do to deserve this joy this happiness?” – “Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord…”

Let the prayers of thanksgiving, repentance and petition flow from your meditation – ideally these are expressed in your own words interlaced with words from the passage itself.