As we celebrate this fourth Sunday of Advent our Gospel tells the story of two families. Mary the young maiden and Elizabeth the mature woman, both dealing with the advent of unusual family situations! Soon many of us will gather with family and friends to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, the beginning of the holy family. But before that, we meditate upon the mystery of God entering into our human existence, just like all of us, within a family.
The Church, under the leadership of Pope Francis, is taking time to meditate on the importance of marriage and family. Statistics tell us that around 46 percent of children are born outside of marriage and that half of the marriages of today end in divorce. As we reflect upon the two families in our Gospel today, we are reminded that no family is immune to challenges of all sorts. In our modern world, with so many changes affecting our age old social structures, the Church must speak anew our long held treasure trove of teachings that support marriage and family life.
This coming September, Catholics from all over the world will gather in Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families. Not only are Catholics coming but also representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Latter-day Saints faith traditions, since we all face the challenges of supporting marriage and family life in the modern context. As you know, even the Pope is coming to add his perspective and to listen.
Let us all listen, since this is the true posture of Advent, to the loving message presented in our scripture today by these challenged, yet powerful, families that stand as a role model for us all. Do not fear, God is with us!