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Advent Homily: The beauty of wonder

By Mons. Peter Jeffrey:

With advances in medical sciences, amazing progress has taken place in our ability to view an unborn child as it develops in its mother’s womb. From a certain stage in her baby’s growth, a mother has always been able to feel the child moving inside her. Ultrasound technology has revolutionised all this – a mother and father can actually watch while the baby sucks its thumb or turns and stretches.

Very soon, we will be placing the baby Jesus in the manger of our Christmas crib. Not only does God bless us by creating us but He also chose to become one with us. He is “Emmanuel” – the name means God-with-us!

In this week’s Gospel, Elizabeth – Mary’s relative and the mother of John the Baptist – says Mary is “Blessed” because she believed that the promises made to her were to be fulfilled.

Very soon – in fact on Christmas Eve – we will be placing the babe of Bethlehem in the crib. That fragile Babe reminds us that God has not only blessed us by creating us but He also chose to become one with us so that we can share in His Divine Life.

I ask myself “What do I want for Christmas?” I long for something of the wonder and awe a child feels. Everyone searches for the good, the true and the beautiful. These desires are deeply human. We Christians have always stressed truth and goodness, but beauty is usually not as highly valued.

However, beauty has its own special power to which everyone responds. It inspires but does not threaten (it is not like Putin or Trump). Keats, the English poet, says “Beauty is truth and truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth and that is all ye need to know”.

After the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis told the Brazilian Bishops “Only the beauty of God can attract, God’s way is through enticement, allurement”. In his beautiful exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” Francis uses the words “beauty” and “beautiful” 44 times.

No matter how old or frail we may be, we all need the gift of ‘wonder’. Without the capacity to ‘wonder,’ we will lack the ability to have a deeper understanding of life. Recently I lost that ability to ‘wonder’ in a conversation that I was having with another and I proceeded to say things I subsequently deeply regretted.

It has often struck me as both remarkable and indicative of Mary’s other-centeredness that when she received the news that her cousin Elizabeth in her old age was expecting as child she “went out as quickly as she could to the hill country of Judah and greeted Elizabeth”. The ensuing dialogue shows that the child in Elizabeth’s womb recognised Mary’s child and together these cousins praised God.

This scene of the Visitation is an invitation for us to deepen our faith and trust in God’s love. It is a call to recognise the presence of Christ in the people we meet and to allow Christ to shine through our often too fragile human lives. Mary and Elizabeth were unique in what God asked of them. However, we too have our own unique calling.

This leads me to finish with this perhaps puzzling but challenging thought – all of us are to be mothers of God in the sense that Jesus needs to be continually born again in our lives. Yes, we may slip and stumble from time to time but the Babe of Bethlehem is there to raise us up.

*This is Mons' homily from the Fourth Sunday of Advent 2018

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