|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
|Mi 5:1-4a||Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19||Heb 10:5-10|| Lk 1:39-45
RCL: Lk 1:39-45 [46-55]
The fulfillment of all things
On the fourth and final Advent Sunday, the prophecy-and-fulfillment readings prepare the believing community to greet God-made-flesh.
The first reading is from the prophet Micah. Like Zephaniah last week, Micah has only one reading in the Lectionary cycle. Micah foretells that God will bring salvation through a messiah, or “anointed one,” from David’s line. Bethlehem-Ephrathah is David’s home town and the promised birthplace of the messiah. Micah’s writings capture the hope of a restored Davidic monarchy after the Babylonian exile. Christians hear Micah’s prophecy fulfilled in Jesus’ coming.
The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews. Using Hebrew scripture’s Psalm 40 as prophecy, the author explains how Christ “came into the world” to offer himself (“a body you prepared for me”) as a transformative sacrifice. That is, Jesus’ incarnation was necessary to accomplish salvation: Jesus’ human body is the vehicle through which he expressed perfect obedience to the Father’s will. Jesus fulfilled the psalm’s promises through his incarnation.
Luke’s gospel tells the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, in which many promises are fulfilled, and new prophecies are spoken. This passage is filled with Semitisms that imitate the sound and rhythm of Hebrew scripture.
- Leaping for joy. John the Baptist “leaping” in Elizabeth’s womb fulfills the angel’s promise to Zechariah that his son “will be filled with the Spirit, even in his mother’s womb” (Lk 1 15). That is, the Spirit inspires John to recognize Jesus as the messiah.
- Mary, Jesus, and disciples. Just as the Spirit fills and inspires John, the Spirit also fills and inspires Elizabeth.
- Elizabeth says Mary is “blessed.” Elizabeth uses the same “blessed” word that Hebrew scripture uses to describe the Jewish heroines Jael (Judg 5:24) and Judith (Jud 13:18). Like Mary, Jael and Judith were commissioned by God to help Israel. Elizabeth foretells Mary’s special role in God’s saving plan.
- Elizabeth reveals that Mary is pregnant with God’s son (“the mother of my Lord”), fulfilling Gabriel’s promise to Mary in Lk 1:32.
- Elizabeth “blesses” Mary’s faith (“you who believed”) as a disciple. Luke, using the same word that introduces the beatitudes (Lk 6:20-22), foretells this blessing for Mary and for all future disciples who believe what the Lord speaks.
Like Advent itself, today’s readings look back to the prophecies and promises of a messiah and look forward to Jesus’ coming in history. John’s words of preparation and metanoia (change of mind/heart) continue to echo throughout the liturgical year. Our discipleship work of turning away from self and turning towards God is never complete. In the final days of Advent, the readings remind us of what God has fulfilled and what remains to be done. What is the Spirit inspiring us to recognize? What is our prophetic mission? What blessings fulfill our future?