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Humility, joy and faith

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There are a variety of powerful themes that make Advent a season of tremendous grace. I would like to ponder three that stand out in our readings this day: humility, joy and faith.

Humility is such a refreshing reality to behold. It seems in short supply these days, like microchips. Humility is a mark of a true Christian because it is a mark of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is the antidote to pride and selfishness. It is a sister virtue to charity. Humility totally pervades the season of Advent.

Our precious Lord wrapped himself in humility. Jesus chose to make his entrance into this world through a town that was not large, well known or important from an economic or political perspective. “Thus says the Lord: You Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel … ” Joseph, Our Lord’s foster father, was a most humble man who labored at carpentry and construction in order to provide for the Holy Family. Elizabeth, Mary’s elderly cousin, proclaims these beautiful words at Mary’s arrival in the hill country, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Finally, in that little town of Bethlehem, Jesus makes his entrance into this world by his birth in a lowly stable.

Love is humble. It does not boast; it does not put any focus on self. Love puts the focus on the other, the beloved. True love keeps the focus on God, what is important, what endures, what builds up, what encourages, what is true, and good, and beautiful. It is no surprise that Jesus’ entrance into this world was marked by a beautiful humility.

Secondly, Advent is a season of joy. If God were to crash down from heaven, take on our human condition and dwell among us, then such an unexpected, unimaginable gift should be met with great joy. So it was.

Elizabeth, during that same visit from Mary, is overjoyed and proclaims, “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” In the Gospels, those who encountered Our Lord and saw him with the eyes of faith were always filled with awe and joy.

The birth of our infant Savior is a supreme confirmation that God heard our cry, grasped our misery and mourned our desperate condition. In the fullness of time, God chose to address it in love. He marvelously decided to pitch his tent in our midst, walk in our shoes and experience our burdens. He also chose to heal us with his loving mercy, reveal to us the face of our heavenly Father and shine a bright light on the path that leads to abundant life. God drew near to us, and we are filled with joy.

Finally, Advent demands that we grow in faith. Faith is the capacity to see the marvels of God and to know that they are the result of his goodness and love. Faith is freely giving the assent of our mind to those truths revealed by God, most especially in the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. Faith is placing one’s complete trust in God’s providential will, even when we do not fully understand it. Faith is a gift. Faith is made possible by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Faith moves mountains.

Let’s turn one more time to Elizabeth. During the aforementioned visit of Mary to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist recognizes the amazing faith of Mary who believes that God chose her as a unique vessel to bring his Son into the world. Even though Mary was quite young, she battled through fear, confusion and being deeply troubled to offer to God her radical “Yes” and be his handmaid. Elizabeth puts it this way, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

By week’s end, we will solemnly and collectively celebrate the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. In humility and joy, may God help us to grow in the faith we profess and live it with courage and conviction. May our lives give glory to God and be a source of encouragement for others, especially our neighbor in need.

Fr. Peterson is director of mission and development for the Youth Apostles.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021