1.Micah 5:2-5
Gospel: Luke 1:39-44

1st Reading: Micah 5:2-5

The Lord says this: But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth, and he shall be the one of peace.

2nd Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,  " Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have  prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ' see, God, I have come to do your will, O God' ( in the scroll of the book it is written of me)."
When he said above, " You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "see, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Gospel: Luke 1:39-44

In those days Mary set out and went  with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, " Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting ,the child in my womb leaped for Joy.


"Joy, the value to be shared"
Last Sunday traditionally known as the " Gaudete Sunday", we were invited to rejoice for the Lord is in our midst. In today's readings, we see in concrete terms, a manifestation of that joy, the joy that comes from the presence of the Lord. This joy is the reason for today's visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. This joy was first prophesied by the prophet Micah in the first reading ( Micah5:1-4). He delivered a message that brought great joy to all who heard it. It was a message of hope and  of deliverance  concerning the one who is to be born in Bethlehem and who will bring in the day of peace when all nations will look to Jerusalem. He will be great and will rule over the people with power and majesty and He himself will be peace.

When for instance I am asked the kind of gift  I am going to give during this Christmas season is a kind of gift, an ordinary gift which others are very familiar. It is just  four letters and these are the four things I am going to give. The first one begin with letter:
R-espect. Everybody has to be respected even little ones and those we consider useless. I respect your opinion  because that's yours and nobody can argue with you. I respect your idea and everything in you, I respect them. Another one begins with letter
O-penness. I am open to all possibilities. In other words, becoming flexible in all things with my faith in Christ as my strong foundation in life especially with my relationship with others. I am open to criticism because that gives me strong determination and this enables me to grow stronger as a person. I am open to all advices and what others want me to do. Another one begins with letter:
S-ensitivity. I can easily understand your feeling at the moment. If your are angry, then, I will not disturb you. The last one begins with letter:
E-mpathy. I am willing to join you in your feeling. If you are sad, then, I will not laugh at your sadness. If you cry, then,  I will  cry too so that there will be few tears to come in your eyes.
If we summarize and combine these four things, it is like this: Respect begins with letter R, Openness with O, Sensitivity with S and Empathy with letter E.  What do we get if these letters are combined? We get a flower called ROSE which symbolizes love. So during this season of Christmas and the rest of the year, I will try to give ROSE even if nobody likes it anymore.

In our gospel today, St. Elizabeth cried in aloud voice when Virgin Mary visited her: " For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy,"(v.44). Mary shares her life by giving joy to her cousin Elizabeth and for Elizabeth, this is one of the greatest gift that she received throughout her life, to be greeted by the mother of the Lord. The joy continues as Elizabeth sees, touches, tastes, and hears things Mary has done. Jesus too begins his life by giving joy. Even before He is born, Jesus' presence brings joy to the people.
This Joy, must be shared. If it is shared, it becomes a double joy. Like for example, if I am going to share my joy to others, others may become happy and the joy still remains in me. A joyful person contaminates others. When do we become joyful? Is it when I attend parties, drinking sessions, gathering, etc? This is just partial and shallow joy because it would stay for  a while and disappear later.

To make our joy authentic, it must be something deeper than those types of joy we encounter every day. The real joy can be found only in Jesus presence in our midst, His presence in creation, in the sacraments and in the other people. His presence can bring peace where there is anxiety, sharing where there is selfishness and dreams where there is despair. In other words it is grace to give joy to others just like what Mary did to St. Elizabeth.

However, today, the Church invites us to share in the joy of the visitation, a joy that was conceived alone but fulfilled in communion with the other. Mary and Elizabeth conceived this joy in their unique but similar circumstances, they extended this joy to the other and were fulfilled what then can we learn from Mary and Elizabeth during this period of Christmas?
Mary, the Ark of the new covenant had Christ hidden in her but she had to make Him visible in her attitude towards Elizabeth and as the Ark brought joy to the household where it was kept for three months (Cf 2Sam6). As Christ left His exalted position in heaven and came down to earth to save us, Mary also left her exalted position as Mother of God and went down to see Elizabeth and helped her. 

Dear brothers and sisters, this is an invitation to each one of us to configure Christ in our lives. It is the call to make Christ visible in all our actions within this season and beyond. We should descend from our lofty thrones and identify with the poor and the weak. We should let others especially those we are better than experience and share in the joy the Lord has caused us.
Besides, Mary being equally pregnant and needed to be cared for went ahead to sacrifice her time and energy in caring for Elizabeth and attending to her domestic needs. By her sacrifice, Elizabeth was relieved of stress and anxiety. As Christians and imitators of Mary, we are also invited to sacrifice for the well being of the other. As the second reading ( Hebrew 10:5-10) presents to us the image of Christ who offered a single and entire sacrifice to make us holy, thus we should also be ready to sacrifice our time, our talents and even our resources to make others happy especially  during this season of Christmas. We can do this by travelling to our native lands to visit our aged parents/ grandparents or by doing some domestic works for that old widow who lives nearby or by extending a gift to a friend or relative.

God continues to work with us and for us. God takes the long view and there are periods of seeming barrenness, seeming aloneness. But these are all part of that gestation which is life  on earth. We were born into this world and we will be reborn into eternal life.

Every now and then like John the Baptist we leap in this womb which is our life on earth. Every now and then we recognize God's presence, as John recognized Jesus' presence, and we leap with joy. But life is always moving on and God is always with us. It was God caused us to come into being, who sustains and feeds us, and who will welcome us into life eternal. As well as the birth of Jesus, we celebrate our own birth too at Christmas- a birth, a life that flows towards death and final resurrection.

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Chapisha Maoni