Last week we launched into the Gospel of Mark, reading how his story is all about the good news of Jesus Christ. It is often the case that the first line of a book is the one which must capture the attention of the reader if it is going to make any impression, and a story all about good news sounds like it’s well worth reading. We should keep this idea of good news at the forefront of our minds as we celebrate the liturgy this weekend because this Sunday is ‘Gaudete’ Sunday or ‘Joyful’ Sunday and on Monday we will begin the pre-octave of Christmas when each gospel reading of the weekday will unfold in all its beauty and majesty the mystery of the most joyful event in our history, the incarnation of Jesus.
To express this joy today, the Lectionary gives us two gospel readings to meditate on rather than one. Instead of a psalm after the first reading we are given the Magnificat from the Gospel of Luke to sing, and sing it we should, because it is one of the most joyful expressions of praise that issues from the mouth of any person in the whole of the canon of scripture. May I suggest that you take the bulletin home with you and keep it close by, so that on each day of this pre-octave week, you can pray this amazing paean of praise to God at home. I believe that if you do you will find that your spirits will be raised and that your heart will be filled with joy, just as Mary herself was. Go through each line slowly and prayerfully and allow the implications of the context of the canticle to illuminate your own circumstances. The message which Mary has been given (which will be the subject of next week’s gospel), is the good news given to her by the angel Gabriel, (a name which means “God’s strength”), that she is the one chosen to bear the child who will become the Messiah. Mary’s response is joyous, and that joy emanates from every line of her poem as the enormity of what it all this means for her becomes clear.
As we enter this special week in the liturgy of the Church, our minds will of course be filled with so many other matters and needs, all of which are perfectly natural and understandable. But in the midst of all the turbulence and upheaval that entered Mary’s life, she kept that good news at the forefront of her mind. We are called to make that same commitment, to keep the good news, the joyful news of the gospel message at the heart of all we do. Remember it was “God’s strength” that brought her the message and it was God’s strength which gave her the courage to glorify his name. In our joy, let that strength speak to us too.