Friday December 21, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Advent
Reading (Song of Songs 2:8-14) Gospel (St. Luke 1:39-45)
In the first reading today from the Song of Songs, we hear Solomon writing about the bride looking for the Bridegroom, desiring the Bridegroom; and then the Bridegroom, speaking to His wife, calls out to her to speak: "Let Me see your face because you are beautiful." The Church gives us this because it talks about how, from the brideís perspective, her Bridegroom is coming to her: over the mountains and over the hills. That is precisely what we see in the Gospel reading today. Our Lady, coming to Elizabeth with Jesus in her womb, comes through the hill country up over the mountains past Jerusalem into Ein Karim where Elizabeth and Zechariah live.
It was there, then, that Our Lord within the womb was speaking in that completely inaudible voice, but yet through the lips of His mother was able to bring the grace of God not only to Elizabeth but to John the Baptist, who was in the womb of Saint Elizabeth. So we see the baby in the womb of Saint Elizabeth leaping for joy as he hears the words that come forth from the mouth of the Mother of God. And we hear those beautiful words, then, of Elizabeth: "Blessed are you among womenÖbut who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" recognizing the absolute dignity that God had given to the Blessed Mother and recognizing her own unworthiness, seeing the gift that God had given to her of being able to conceive this child, not only in such an extraordinary manner but to be such an extraordinary person. Even there, seeing Godís favor in her own life, she wonders how it is possible that the Mother of God would come to visit her. She sees the favor of God and yet, at the same time, she sees her own humility. She is filled with the Holy Spirit, we are told; and it was that which allowed her to be so humble in the face of the mystery of the Incarnation.
Then she goes on to say to Our Lady: "Blessed is she who trusted that the Lordís words to her would be fulfilled." For each one of us, as we seek the Lord in our hearts, that is precisely the attitude that we need to have. If we look at that first reading again, we look for the Lord to come to us. As we try to come to Him in prayer, as we try to open our hearts to Him, as we make the effort to come to Mass and to spend time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament, we seek Him - and yet we have to wait. Even though He is right here in the Blessed Sacrament - we know that He is there, and in that sense we can see Him - in our hearts it is very often dark and dry. We sit there in the darkness awaiting the dawn. That is what Elizabeth was noticing; that is what the world had been waiting for: waiting for the Lord to come and calling out to Him, "Come, my Beloved!"
Now as the Lord is showing Himself hidden in His invisibleness because He is still within the womb of Our Lady, so too, for us, we can find the Lord within the Church. We hear His voice being spoken through His Church. And we can hear His voice spoken in the silence of our own hearts the same way that John the Baptist was able to hear, in essence, the voice of the Lord, even though He spoke not a word. When we hear the truth which the Church speaks, when we hear the truth which the Gospels preach to us, our heart, like John the Baptist, must leap for joy because it is the Word of God; it is the voice of Christ.
And then we simply need to believe. Who are we, we need to wonder, that Our Lord should come to us? That the truth should be presented to us while most of the rest of the world does not have it? That is not an arrogant statement, but it is one of absolute humility Ė the same thing that Elizabeth had to experience. Recognizing the incredible gift that God had given to her, she had to turn right around and say, "And who am I?" That is what we need to ask. We need to be able to go to the Lord and say, "Who am I that You should give to me this gift that so often we take for granted?" Elizabeth recognized that she could not take it for granted. We must not either.
But at the same time we must marvel at Godís love for us that He has given us this gift, that He has sent His Son to us, that He comes in the Blessed Sacrament - but in a very invisible way. And He speaks in silence, hidden, not now in His motherís womb but hidden behind the form of bread. He speaks in our hearts. When we recognize this mystery, when we accept it with our hearts, when we rejoice and internally leap for joy because our Beloved has come to us, then those words of Elizabeth to Our Lady will be spoken to each one of us; "Blessed are you who believed that the Lordís words to you would be fulfilled." God has made His promise. On the day of Baptism He accepted you as His own child, and now He feeds you with the Body and Blood of His own Son. His words to each one of us have indeed been fulfilled because we have believed. And in that silence we have heard Him speak in our hearts. We seek in the darkness and the silence of our heart for our Beloved, but our Beloved has come to each one of us. Now, all we wait for is to see His face and to hear His voice. For as it says: His face is beautiful; His voice is lovely. We beg Him now to show Himself to us in the Incarnation, in the Eucharist; and we wait to be able to see Him face-to-face forever. Blessed are they who believe in these words of the Lord spoken in the hearts of each one of us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.