In this annual series, current and former volunteers reflect on the Advent Gospels and the Four Pillars of Faith-Based Service: Social Justice, Simplicity, Community and Spirituality. Presented by Catholic Apostolate Center and Catholic Volunteer Network.
Fourth Sunday of Advent Reflection, by Benita Owusuaa Amoako, St. Joseph Worker
“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste…” Luke 1:39 – 45
I wonder what St. Teresa of Calcutta was thinking and doing or possibly reflecting on when she said, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Sometimes, we all sit back and talk about making a difference in the world we live in but we get stuck in our planning because we keep thinking of all the ‘great-big’ things we need to do to make a name for ourselves, to be recognized, to be hailed or praised; we most often forget that it is in the little things that we can make a difference- giving a smile, giving a hug, saying hello, listening, helping, giving without expecting anything in return… those are a few ways we make all the difference in the worlds of the people around us.
In today’s Gospel according to St. Luke, we are told how Mary set out- in a haste to the ‘hill country’; according to Biblical scholars, she traveled between 80 and 100 miles (probably on foot). She did not consider the fact that she was also pregnant- she did not think about herself, she only thought of the fact that another person needed her. I dare ask, how many of us in Mary’s condition (early stages of pregnancy) or probably feeling as though life isn’t going our way no matter how much we have prayed, will hear or see another person probably going through the exact same thing we are going through at that present moment and go to the aid of the other or be a comfort or friend just because that other person needs it?
When Mary accepted to do God’s will, she did not know the what next step would be but she trusted and knew that God’s plan for His children (including herself) includes a full life; and a full life, according to R.J. Wicks in his book, Prayerfulness, involves a willingness to serve others, rather than simply being wrapped up in ourselves. That is what Mary did, she removed the cloak of self and went the extra mile to bring joy to Elizabeth and the baby in her (Elizabeth’s) womb. Mary sets an example for us in this season of Advent, she says to us: “Go out of your way, be of service; bring joy to another”.
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Luke 1: 41).
Focus on Spirituality: When people meet me, do they encounter God? When people see me, do they see God? How do people react when I am around them? Sometimes (rather all or most of the times), I ask myself, “what are people really thinking or saying to themselves- what is really going on internally with people when I am around?” It’s easier to say that I am a Catholic (Christian) but I wonder if I live it so much that when people see me, they see God; I wonder if, like Mary, I carry the very presence of God that makes people want to know God for who God is… or whether my very presence in a place causes people to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit…). I recently came across a quote that said, “Live in such a way that those who know you, but do not know God, will come to know God because they know you” (Anonymous).
Sometimes, I ask myself if I know God and I live God such that my very breath is God’s breath and my very presence in a place is God’s presence. I ask if I can ever know God ‘fully’ [don’t get me wrong, I do know Him (to some extent, I think) and I do believe that He lives in my heart] in order to live Him.
I ask what our world would be, if all of us who are God’s children ‘live’ God or mirror God’s love to all those we encounter in life. We live in a world where good is in constant battle with evil and we who are God’s children, friends and ambassadors seem to be doing little or it seems as though our efforts do not go far. We are called to love and go the extra mile for every one regardless of another’s perceptions of them or us. Maybe I want to see a world of light and less darkness/ evil, a world where everyone is treated with dignity to know that indeed God’s children carry His presence and are spreading God’s light.
I believe that God gives us opportunities each day to bring God’s presence to others (like Mary did for Elizabeth) – on the bus, on the streets, in our workplaces, in the supermarket… I realize that for the world to be filled with the light of God’s presence, it starts with you and me.
Service Suggestion: In the words of Barbara Johnson, “when we do little acts of kindness that make life more bearable for someone else, we are walking in love as the Bible commands us.” In this season of Advent, maybe there is someone you have been praying for- reach out and be present to him or her; maybe you have so many things to do and so many plans but there is that one person who needs you and you think there is no time, be God’s presence and give joy by your presence, your smile, an encouraging word, a hug, … be a joy germ! Be joy not only to those within your close circle but to those you meet every day. Help someone come to the cradle of baby Jesus with the joy you brought them. Advent is for us all. May we spread the joy of Advent and Christmas especially to those who need it and those who can give nothing in return. As we go the extra mile this season, let us remember to “shine so that through us others can see God” (C.S. Lewis)
Prayer: LORD, may I carry Your presence and shine Your light wherever I find myself. May people come to know You because I live out Your word. May more hearts come to the joy of Christ’s birth this season because You gave me the courage and wisdom to go the extra mile to shine for You. Amen!
- Benita is currently serving with St. Joseph Worker in New York, NY.
Looking for more reflections like this one? We invite you to download our Advent Reflection Guide in its entirety, available by clicking here. You can find an extensive library of Advent resources by visiting the Catholic Apostolate Center website – click here.