Homily on the Fourth Sunday of Advent
“How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk1:43)
In these final days of Advent, we focus on the preparation of Christmas, and the Church presents Mary to us as a model. Let us draw our attention to Elizabeth’s response to the greeting of Mary in the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today.
Elizabeth said this while she was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:41): “How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk1:43). By picturing Elizabeth responding to Mary with these words, the evangelist Luke alluded to an Old Testament passage: the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence with God’s people was recaptured from the Philistines and brought back to Jerusalem. King David, in awe of the Lord’s power, says. “How can the ark of the Lord come to me” (2 Sam 6:9). By having Elizabeth echoing David’s words, the Holy Spirit presented Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant. In the Old Testament, inside the Ark is the Word of God (the Tablets of the Ten Commandments); now inside the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Eternal Word, Jesus, our Savior. Perhaps, through this insight from the Gospel proclaimed on this 4th Sunday of Advent when we pray the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary/Litany of Loreto, one of the invocations is: “Ark of the Covenant, pray for us.”
The veneration of Mary as Ark of the Covenant gives us much to ponder during Advent. Not too long ago, on December 8, we celebrated the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin: From the moment of her conception, God by a singular privilege preserved Mary from the stain of original sin. God gave Mary this singular privilege to prepare what the Letter to the Hebrews in our Second Reading indicates: “When Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifices and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepare for me.’” Heb (10:5). The people of God throughout the centuries understand that Mary cooperates fully with God’s grace so that her entire life is sinless. Thus, her being is always a living and worthy Ark for the Lord. This is our lesson in these final days of Advent: ask and cooperate with God’s grace to push away the darkness of sin in our hearts, and thus all of us become the living arks, welcoming temples for the Lord to visit us in Holy Communion, especially on Christmas Day. For this reason, during this time the sons and daughters of the Church rush to the confessional to receive the Sacrament of Penance. Just like the grace of God preserved/kept/protected Mary from sin; so now Confession cleanses and restores us to the life of children of God.
During this time of the season, people decorate their homes, churches, and many places of importance to them. That means we need to decorate our interior homes, our living temples, or our arks for the Lord. We do so by appealing to God’s cleansing in Confession and mounting the walls and doors of our interior arks with lights, i.e., our acts of virtues, goodness, compassion, and forgiveness.
My dear friends, do not let this Advent pass by with no preparation or no repentance within us. Mary, the Ark of the Covenant, has shown us a way to keep Advent! If we prepare ourselves in this way, at Christmas, using the ending of the First Reading today, “He shall be peace.” (Mi 5:4). Christ, the Infant Child dwelt in the New Ark of the Covenant, the womb of Mary, shall be your peace. Amen.