4th Sunday of Advent – C

A little girl was walking along a beach covered with thousands of starfish left dying by the receding tide. Seeking to help, she started picking up the dying starfish and tossing them back into the ocean. A man who watched her with amusement, said, “Little girl, there are hundreds of starfish on the beach. You cannot make a difference by putting a few of them back into the sea.” Discouraged, she began to walk away. Suddenly, she turned around, picked up another starfish, and tossed it into the sea. Turning to the man, she smiled and said, “At least I made a difference to that one!” Today’s gospel tells us how Mary, a village girl carrying Jesus in her womb, made a difference in the lives of her cousin Elizabeth and of the child in her womb.
There is a saying, “He (she) who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” Mary, filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, hurried to the mountain country where Elizabeth lived, thereby conveying the Holy Spirit to her cousin and her child. The trip from Nazareth in Galilee where Mary lived to a village in Judea where Elizabeth lived would take four days (120 kilometers). The two cousins greeted one another, one running to assist the other, both pregnant with life and faith. Elizabeth’s unborn child leaped with joy in recognition that salvation was near.

Mary helped Elizabeth in her time of need and served her till John was born. That was her perfect, loving, and sacrificial gift to Elizabeth. This story teaches us the importance of mutual ministry. Each of us has a unique call, leaving us no reason for envy. Mary brought the Savior; John recognized and identified Him; and Elizabeth gave prophecy, mediating God’s word by interpreting this event.

We need to carry Jesus to others as Mary did. We can make a real difference in the lives of others by carrying Jesus to them. However, we cannot give what we do not possess. Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing his rebirth within us. Thus he enables us to share his love with all whom we encounter by offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate caring.
The starfish story suggests that each person, no matter how unimportant, may truly benefit from our work, and that any service, however small, is valuable. The story also shows how seemingly hopeless problems can be solved by taking the first step.

What gift did Mary bring to Elizabeth when she visited her? We are not told that she brought foodstuff, although she might as well have brought some. We are told she brought just one thing: herself. She gave Elizabeth the gift of her very presence. And, dear friends, this is the best and the hardest gift of all. It is easy to send flowers, it is easy to send a parcel, but to give the gift of ourselves, to make out the time to be with somebody, that is the gift that many people long for but do not receive at Christmas. Following Mary’s example in today’s Gospel story, we must, in addition to the flowers and parcels, give of ourselves, our presence, and our time. We must find the time to visit and be with people. This is the greatest gift because its value cannot be calculated in terms of money.

I invite you to spend time with your family during this season. Visit your elderly parents and grandparents. Sharing Jesus with others is the best Christmas gift we can give. God wants each of us, like Mary, to carry to those around us the Lord of Life. Let us take the time to visit others this Christmas, to bring some inspiration into their lives, and hopefully to bring them closer to God.

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