Our Lady Heard the Word of God and Kept It
Tuesday December 21, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Advent
Reading (Song of Songs 2:8-14) Gospel (St. Luke 1:39-45)
In the first reading today, we hear from the Song of Songs about the beloved leaping over the mountains and bounding over the hills. In other words, even though the beloved is looking for her lover it is still unknown when it is that he will arrive. As she seeks out her lover, he comes at a time she does not necessarily expect and in a manner which is going to be hidden. That is exactly what Our Lord did as well two thousand years ago. We hear about Our Lady going up into the mountains carrying Jesus within her, over the hills and through the mountains, to the one who was awaiting His arrival: Saint John the Baptist, still hidden in the womb of his mother.
Along with this, we have to look at that relationship between Our Lord and Our Lady because all the people of Israel were waiting for the Lord, for the One Who loved them; but of all the people on the face of the earth, it was Our Lady more than anyone who was looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. So there is this relationship that is there between Jesus and Mary. She is truly the beloved. Of all people in humanity, she above all is the one loved by Our Lord because she was the one who could receive His love most perfectly. Only God, of course, can perfectly receive love because His love is infinite; but, of all humanity, Our Lady had the greatest capacity to be able to receive His love and to be able to love Him in return. She truly is the beloved and He is the Lover, and He filled her heart with love.
So when Elizabeth says to her that she is the most blessed among all women, it is on one level because of her fullness of grace; one could also say, of course, because she is the Mother of God; and one could also say because she loves more perfectly than anyone else. Yet if we go back to the Book of Genesis and we look at creation, we see that there is this order of perfection in creation. The woman, being the last one created, is the most perfect being of all. We see that she is the highest of all creatures. The man was made from the dirt. The woman was made from a living human being, and she is the one above all of God’s creatures who is the most exalted and the most perfect. From that class of exalted beings – women – there is one who stands out above all, and that is our Blessed Lady. All women have this wonderful capacity to be able to love, to enter relationally into union with God, to have that very, very special intimate union, that spousal kind of union with the Lord that men do not have and cannot have – but women do. And of all women, it is Our Lady who truly is the spouse of the Holy Spirit; she is the daughter of the Father; she is the mother of the Son.
When Elizabeth greets Our Lady with this wonderful greeting that she gave, we have to hear the words that are there, not only that she is the most blessed among all women (all women, of course, are blessed in her), but also the words that she is blessed because she believed that God’s word to her would be fulfilled. Remember, that is exactly what Our Lord told us in the context of what many people think is a put-down to Our Lady when the woman in the crowd said, Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that gave you suck, and Our Lord said, Blessed rather is the one who hears the word of God and keeps it. And what does Elizabeth tell Our Lady? Blessed is she who believed that the word spoken to her would be fulfilled.
She heard the word of God and she kept it. She heard the word and kept it so perfectly that the Word became flesh in her womb. She had conformed herself perfectly to the Word of God, so perfectly that the Word of God could be conformed to her without losing anything of Himself. And so she is the one who brings that Word of God into the world in a physical way. Our debt to our Blessed Lady is eternal. How grateful we have to be for this extraordinary woman! For all eternity we will have the joy of being able to praise God for her. While we are going to look at God face-to-face for eternity (assuming we go the right direction), the next one in line is Our Lady. All creation – every creature that is in heaven – will thank God for all eternity for our Blessed Lady.
So when Elizabeth looks at her and says, And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? each one of us can say the exact same thing because she is our mother, because we are members of the Son of God. Who are we that the mother of Our Lord should come to us? It is merely because of His love for us and her love for us. That love is infinite and that love is showered upon each one of us. That love was so profound that Saint John the Baptist leapt with joy in the womb of his mother. So much love was there that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spouse of Our Lady, so wherever she goes the Holy Spirit is there. That is the kind of love they shower upon each one of us. We need to have the same response as John the Baptist and as his mother Saint Elizabeth, to leap interiorly with joy, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the greatness of the Lord, to proclaim our own humility, and to praise the blessed woman who said “yes” to God and who brought the Word of God to us so that we can be blessed because the Word of God spoken to us has been believed, has been accepted, and has been loved. Obviously, none of us can have the same experience as Our Lady, but the closest we can come is to carry Jesus within us in the Blessed Sacrament.
The Word of God continues to be spoken. Blessed are they who hear the Word and keep it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.