(See the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Dec. 23, 2018.)
The Little Sisters of the Poor are well known for their charity and acts of kindness. Here in Philadelphia, the sisters care for the elderly with great devotion at Holy Family Home in the southwest section of the city.
I recently came upon a story that happened to a group of Little Sisters on the West Coast. Some of the sisters who run Saint Martin’s Home went to one of the “big box” stores to purchase some gifts for the residents and the staff. When they were leaving the store with shopping carts full of gifts, a stranger came over to them and asked if they needed any help. Sister Caroline later said, “We just thought it was a good Samaritan and he was there out of the willingness of his heart and the holiday spirit.”
The sisters waited at the store while he loaded the cars. When the man got back, Sister Caroline had said to him: “Gee, you did that so quickly! I can’t tell you how grateful we are that you helped us.” She shook his hand and concluded: “God bless you, and I surely will pray for you.” Turns out the reason the man moved so quickly was that he stole half the sister’s presents. They had found out when they had gotten back to Saint Martin’s and opened their trunk. Only half of the presents they purchased were there. Before they could call the police, a representative from the store called to say someone turned in their cart full of gifts. Apparently the young man had a change of heart after their sincerely kind words of appreciation.
The acts of kindness that we do can never be underestimated. Many acts of kindness are done during this time of the year. Parishes and organizations run clothing drives, gift giving programs and holiday meals for the poor. Many people take the time to do charitable activities and to show acts of kindness toward the less fortunate. The good that is accomplished is great. Kindness goes along way in helping others.
In the Gospel passage for today’s liturgy, we hear of one of the Blessed Mother’s acts of kindness — her visit to Elizabeth. Earlier in the Gospel, the angel Gabriel had told Mary that Elizabeth, her elderly cousin, was now in her sixth month of pregnancy. Hearing that Elizabeth is in need, Mary goes to help. Mary can be a good reminder to us of the importance of faith. Mary’s faith inspires her actions, moves her to love and fills her with hope.
Mary’s greatest act of faith was saying yes to Gabriel’s announcement that she would be the mother of the Messiah: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Her desire to serve God overflows in love for others, in this case Elizabeth and her developing baby who will later be named John.
Our celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Advent continues to focus our attention on Jesus. Our faith is in him as the Messiah, our Lord and King. Looking forward to the celebration of Christmas, we are reminded that faith in him helps us to love and to live a life of charity, compassion and kindness.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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