In the Readings for Sunday, there is the sketch of a wonderful world.
In that world, there are angels, who take care of human beings. There is a ruler who shepherds people and protects them. By his power and his goodness, he brings peace to all the earth.
There is peace for the troubled psyche of every person, too. God turns each unsettled, uneasy, unhappy heart to himself; and, turned to God, every heart can be at peace.
There is salvation from sin and even holiness. God has redeemed his people and consecrated them to himself. They are the saints of God.
And there is glory. Who was Elizabeth? An ordinary Jewish woman of her time, distinguished by her barrenness and not much more. And yet look at her in the Gospel, filled with the Holy Spirit and exercising the office of prophet to Mary, mother of the Lord. She is glorious in this story, isn’t she? In the world sketched in the Readings, there is the glory and beauty of holiness available for all God’s people.
But consider the everyday world we live in. Take it from the top: angels, majestic rulers, goodness protecting the people, peace in the world, holiness in our hearts, glory in our lives. Look around the mall, listen to the news media. What world are the writers of the Readings living in?
And yet our own experience of grace gives us hope in the world of the Readings, doesn’t it? The ugliness and the evil so easy to see overlie a deeper reality, which we can sense in the quiet moments of our lives, when, like Mary, we are open to the call of the Lord. The everyday world of the mall and the news media, which looks so compelling, is a thin thing that will crumple and dissolve in time. What will remain is the world of the Readings.
In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!” (Deut. 33:27). Underneath, in the refuge of the everlasting arms, is where the truth of the Readings lies. And the Truth behind the Readings lies in the womb of Mary, waiting to be born.