No matter what liturgical year we are in, A, B, or this year’s cycle C, Mary always makes her appearance in the Gospel of the fourth Sunday of Advent. Cycle A’s Gospel has Matthew’s account of the Annunciation; Cycle B has Luke’s account of Joseph’s dilemma regarding Mary’s pregnancy; this Sunday we hear from Luke about how Mary, having been told by the Angel about her older cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy, immediately travels to her. Why was this story, written about 80 of the Christian Era (CE), included in Luke’s Gospel? Some scholars point out that this story presents Jesus as superseding John the Baptist. John is born first and defers to Jesus as “the one coming after me, whose sandal I am not worthy to loose.” Elizabeth defers to Mary, saying, “How does it happen that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” “Lord” in Greek is Kyrios, a higher term than messiah. So it was clear to first century people hearing Luke’s Gospel that Jesus, not John, is “number one.” But we also read our Gospel stories for their inspiration. I love this part of the Mary story. She doesn’t stay home compiling her online list for her baby showers! She travels “in haste” and she stays for three months with Elizabeth, Scripture says. She embodies Jesus’ message of serving one another, even at physical cost. In John’s Gospel, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet to exemplify service, and in Luke 22:24-26 he says, “Let the leader be the servant.” We might also think of the beautiful passage from Philippians 2:6ff where Jesus empties himself for us so completely that he is imaged as a slave for us. This motif of serving one another is a spiritual gift Luke offers us through this story of Mary, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our servant Lord.
— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia