Fourth Sunday of Advent Fourth Sunday of Advent 

Sunday Gospel reflection: Faith is an uphill journey

The protagonist in today’s Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent changes from John the Baptist to Mary. We have a lot to learn from her when our faith in God becomes an uphill journey.

By Ryan Browne

Faith is a hard struggle. It is a trust that goes beyond any human sense of the word. To believe without seeing or knowing goes against all of our natural tendencies. We desire to know things. We desire to plan. We desire to be in total control of our lives.

Faith offers a new dimension: to believe, to trust, even if we don’t know what will happen. I’m reminded of the Thomas Merton prayer, in which he summed up very well what faith actually is:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.”

Notice the negations of the self here: I have no idea, I do not see, I cannot know. The only affirmation here is ‘My Lord God.’ If we have faith, God is the only stable and certain thing in our lives. Our human lives are characterised by their uncertainty.   

Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-45) opens up the mystery of faith to us. The Gospel in today’s liturgy shows us that faith is not easy. We see Mary travelling to her cousin’s house in the hill country of Judah. Both are heavily pregnant, but Mary feels the desire to visit her aged cousin, who conceives in her old age. Geographically speaking, to travel to the hill country would not have been an easy thing for a pregnant woman to do. It’s at a high elevation and at a far distance. Mary, however, trusted in God and goes to offer comfort to her pregnant cousin.

During the visitation, Elizabeth feels her own child leap with joy at the presence of Mary, who is carrying Jesus in the womb. Elizabeth proclaims, “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Mary trusted in what God called her to do: to bear the Son of God in her womb, a son, who would redeem the world from sin and death.

Does this mean we should have blind faith?

Does this example suggest that we merely do as we’re told?

No! Mary’s example in today’s Gospel shows us the need to discern – to think like God. When the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, Mary had a free choice to say ‘no.’ She decided to trust in God’s desire for her life and thus place her own concerns aside. Faith is enlivened in freedom.

On this final Sunday of Advent we are called to enter into a deeper discernment of God’s desire for our lives. We can find an example par excellence in in the person of Mary.

To be steadfast in faith is not easy, especially in those moments when we do not feel the presence of God. The daily challenge for us is to trust in God’s will both in times of consolation and of desolation.

A faith that only rejoices in consolation is a faith half-lived. Imagine what rejoicing comes to the person who keeps the faith during one of life’s uphill journeys! A realistic faith is one lived through the hardships of life.

Let’s pray today that in those moments of spiritual hardship, we may keep the goal in sight so as to rejoice as Mary did:


My soul glorifies the Lord!

Listen to the Sunday Gospel Reflection

Ryan Browne, from Bournemouth, England, is a seminarian studying at the Venerable English College in Rome, in his first year of theology.

18 December 2021, 11:54