Blessed Are They Who Believe

Fr Denis Lemieux

Blessed is she who believed that what the Lord had spoken to her would be fulfilled …” (Luke 1:45).

The Fourth Sunday of Advent on December 18 brings us the Gospel of the Visitation.

I’ve always loved this Gospel. It seems to me to be like a little icon of heaven—the two women, each of them carrying within her person a hidden mysterious life, embracing in an encounter of pure joy and delight, a joy and delight which overflow in Mary’s hymn of exultant praise and glory to God.

This, I hold to be true, is the very image and hope of what we will spend eternity doing. If heaven is anything (and I think it is everything), it is God filling each redeemed, saved human soul therein with his life and love, each recognizing in the other that divine light, each rejoicing in the life of God in the other, each pouring out a song of joy, laughter and delight in that recognition.

Well, this is why God became man at Christmas, this event we are all so busy in our celebration of at this time of year. This is why the man Jesus who is God hung on the cross and died for us, and what his resurrection and ascension to heaven proclaim not only to us, but to the ends of the cosmos.

That God’s final and full purpose in creation is realized in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on humanity, and that the outpouring of that Spirit grants eternal life in beauty and joy unsurpassed to all who receive it.

And so my own mind and heart return to the words spoken by Elizabeth and quoted above: Blessed is she who believed. Blessed are we who believe, too. Belief is holding something to be true not because we know it through our own certain knowledge because we have seen it with our own eyes or reasoned it out infallibly by our own minds.

Faith is holding something to be true based on the word of another who we have decided is trustworthy. This is the simple meaning of the word in non-religious contexts—believing one’s spouse to be faithful, or that a dear and trusted friend will keep his or her word to us, and so forth.

And so we believe that God the Bridegroom is faithful, and that this Most Dear Friend will keep his word to us, above all.

It is so important. Because of course we are not in heaven, not quite yet. We don’t live in a world where we can see the Spirit of God flow in and out and around and through all we encounter each day.

We emphatically do not live in a world of unending boundless joy and peace without end. We have to take his Word for it.

Because we live in the world in which we live, we must have faith that what God has said he will do, will be. And that already the action of God is moving in this world filled with so many things good and evil, light and dark, joyous and sorrowful.

The Spirit of God is alive and active, and that divine presence which we will see with our own eyes in heaven (and hence will have no need of faith there) is already stirring in billions of souls here on earth, hidden from all.

Blessed are they who believe. The fruit of faith is hope, and the fruit of hope is love. When we believe without seeing, we keep moving forward (blindly at times) towards the object of our faith which is God. And that is the virtue of hope.

The way we keep moving forward towards God is the path of humble service and unceasing generosity to all. And that is the virtue of love.

Those who walk in faith, hope, and love are blessed, and are a blessing and a joy to the world. This Christmas, as we ponder what God has spoken to us and renew our faith in his words in the beauty and joy of the feast (for that is what feasting is for), let us be determined to be that blessing, and to carry the life given to us, Christ’s life, to all we encounter every day.