Advent Weekday | December 21, 2019

The core of our readings for today’s liturgy is – Exultation!

That’s a biblical word that means rejoicing or celebrating with exuberance.

Not a bad word for those who find the winter months challenging due to weather or the cold. Indeed, today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year – at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere. It can often be very cold and dark. But we recognize that the days only get longer as the winter continues.

For our brothers and sisters in the Southern Hemisphere it is the summer solstice, the start of the season of abundance and growth – another reason for exulting!

Exultation is about recognizing good news and celebrating it.

And all of these reading speak about it.

The reading from the beautiful Song of Songs – a poem of lovers in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament – has the lover speak to beloved – “Arise! Come! The winter is past; the rains are gone.” The alternate first reading from Zephaniah promises a mighty savior, who will not only cause the people to rejoice and exult, but who will also exult among his people. “He will sing joyfully because of you.” What a wonderful image – a God who sings joyfully with us!

The psalm, too, offers a call to exult in God who will rescue us.

Finally the Gospel brings us the Visitation – the encounter between Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, who experience exultation as they recognize in both of their startling pregnancies the seed of God – the beginning of something new and amazing!

We are invited into exultation and renewed hope in these days before Christmas.

Whether we are under winter skies or the summer sun this time of year, Christmas is coming – a reason for exulting! Whether we are surrounded by Advent candles or Christmas lights lit during early evenings and long nights, or by long days celebrated by planting, enjoying the outdoors, or having a roast dinner. These can all be outward signs of our inward expectation and anticipation. We rejoice because the Lord is near!

In the busy days which mark this time of year, we’re invited to step aside, if only for brief moments, to enter into the hope and promise of new life. Let us be refreshed by the awareness that wherever we are, God is near. God is coming to us.

God give you peace!

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As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.