Mary Had a Busy Advent

User's Guide to Sunday, Dec. 20

Sunday, Dec. 20, is the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year C).


Mass Readings

Micah 5:1-4; Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45

And so it comes to this: The last Sunday of Advent. As we face the last stretch before Christmas, the Church’s focus shifts to Our Lady.

Children will remember the week before Christmas as a time of intense waiting. Adults remember it as a time when the preparations reach a fever pitch, but with the chance to rest in the Christmas season.

The Church seems to be telling us to live this often difficult time like Our Lady did: She was away from home in today’s Gospel, busy serving her family, but not too busy to bring peace and joy to Elizabeth. When Christmas comes, she will be away from home again, bringing an oasis of peace into the busyness of Bethlehem.

The readings this week show Mary in the mode we often see her: on the move, bringing us to Christ, and vice versa. That’s what she does at the Wedding Feast at Cana, at the cross and at Pentecost.

This time, she brings Jesus to Elizabeth, and we see what the result is: Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and joy, and even her unborn child reacts.

Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth sums up what makes Mary great: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

With that, she sums up the life of the faithful in the same terms we hear in the second reading: “Sacrifice and offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in,” but, instead: “Behold, I come to do your will.”

This is the attitude of Mary that we hear in the Gospel acclamation: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

It is also the attitude of Christ himself, as described in the first reading: “From you [Bethlehem] shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. … He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord.”

We often hear complaints that Christmas is too commercial, too consumerist, too stressful or too disappointing. We cannot on our own change any of that, so we should stay close to Mary instead. Pray the Rosary to stay focused on her life, and ask her for the grace of joining in her project of doing God’s will in a hectic world.

“Let us be guided by her,” said Pope Francis during Advent 2013, “she who is mother; she is a ‘mama’ and knows how to lead us. Let us be guided by her in this time of waiting and active vigilance.”

The waiting is almost over. Then will come Christmas Day, the 12 days of Christmas and the feast of the Holy Family.

The more we prepare our house, the greater the festivity; and the more we prepare our hearts, the greater the Christmas joy. Just ask Mary.

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at

Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas,

where he lives with April,

his wife and in-house theologian and consultant,

and their children.

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