Bearers of joy


Ilang tulog na lamang at Pasko na! (A couple more winks and it is Christmas!) Our penchant for celebration is reflected by our eager way of counting the days to fete in terms of the sleeping still to be undergone. As if in a fairy tale, we wish to wake up from sleep into the joy of the festivity. The Fourth Sunday of Advent means we are already a hailing distance to the tremendous and joyous event of the incarnation and nativity of our Lord Jesus. The Gospel account (Luke 1:39-45) reminds us that joy needs bringers.

Mary, the bringer of joy

MARY’S visit to her relative Elizabeth illustrates the fact that jubilation is presaged by labor, as birth is by pangs. The perilous distance Mary travels to be beside her elderly and very pregnant cousin took at least four days on foot, probably in the company and protection of pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem or some caravan of merchants. Her spontaneous desire to go to Judea to the house of Zacharias is triggered by the angel’s information that the one who is called barren is already in her sixth month of pregnancy with the child that is already the joy of the old couple. Truly, nothing is impossible with God, and every gift of God is the cause of joy and thanksgiving.

But Mary does not only share in the personal joy of Elizabeth and Zacharias, she is the bearer herself of the messianic joy of her people. The first word of the angel to her was “Rejoice, highly favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). What the prophet Zephaniah (3:14) earlier said now applies to her: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, o daughter Jerusalem!” Chosen by God to be the mother of the savior, Mary is the very personification of God’s chosen people in the delight and certainty of God’s saving action. With Jesus in her womb, Mary understands what Simeon in the temple who would say upon taking the infant Jesus into his arms: “Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation…a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for Your people Israel!” (Luke 2:29-32).

Jesus, the joy of the world

FILLED with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth joyfully experienced that her own infant in the womb jumped with gladness at the coming of their guests. Mary is like the living Ark of the Covenant containing in her womb the Sacrament of God’s saving presence. Like King David leaping and dancing before the Lord at the coming of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:16), the infant in Elizabeth’s womb is moved with intense joy before the “Emmanuel”
—God is now once again in the midst of His people full of mercy and compassion. Like the three strangers who dropped in on Abraham and Sarah at Mamre and brought joy to the lives of the old couple who had no more tomorrow to wait for (Genesis 18:1-15), the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit, in the womb and in the heart of Mary, visited Zacharias and Elizabeth and their child, and shared with them the fullness of joy.

Mary in her own meditation on everything happening to her and around her, can only burst forth in her canticle the Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior!” (Luke 1:46). Rejoice in the Lord she does, as the angel at the Annunciation told her. Mary can uniquely reflect the joy of the people because she has in her womb and in her heart the Joy of the world. That is her blessedness, the source of her happiness, her beatitude, that she has accepted the Word of God into her life, as Elizabeth appreciating what has happened to her young relative said to Mary: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). Later during his preaching ministry, Jesus himself would underscore that Mary’s true blessedness, or anybody else’s for that matter, lies in receiving and hearing the word of God and in observing it and living according to it (Luke 11:28).

Alálaong bagá, if Jesus God’s eternal Word is the salvation of the world, being in communion with Jesus is the foundation of the true joy anyone can be blessed with. And as the story of the nativity of Jesus recounts to us, God’s Word and joy make use of bearers to spread out. Am I rooted enough in the joy of the coming of Jesus in my life, so that I am a bearer of joy to others?

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