Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 19
May Our Hearts Not Give in to Despair, Anxiety or Fear of Any Sort; Rather, May We Give Selflessly to One Another, for That Is the True Spirit of the Christmas Season to Which We Are Called to Live Each and Every Day of Our Lives.
At the end of today’s First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Micah, we read, “…his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.” – words which speak to the heart of every God-fearing person which yearns for that which only Heaven can give.
And yet, peace in itself, without God in our lives, can be so elusive!
When we look at the world in which we live today, a world burdened with so such discord between cultures, between political and religious ideologies, one can only question if true peace is possible? In a world in which Divine Truth is relativized and God’s Presence is trivialized, the answer is a resounding “NO!”
A civilization, a culture without God’s Truth as its focal point is a society doomed to fail, a people who will wander through life never truly achieving inner peace, harmony and joy.
Even in our own lives, I am sure that there are times when each of us can feel worn out or weighed down with concerns which can fill us with anxiety or despair. Life can sometimes flatten us with just a few quick punches, or slowly run us into the ground with the endless repetitiveness of things that go on and on and never get finished. Just ask any parent, any spouse, any businessman, any child, any clergyman.
When that dark moment inevitably creeps up upon us – full of weariness or sadness, pain of soul or downright anxiety, or maybe even terror – as is experienced by many who are victims of political or religious fanaticism at its worst – there is a voice inside of us which seems to whisper, “Forget it. This is never going to work. It’s not worth it!”
And that voice is the voice of Satan filling us with hopelessness and despair!
In today’s Gospel, however, we are given the image of the exact opposite – Mary, who was only about the age of fourteen when she experienced the appearance of the Archangel and became pregnant with Jesus. And it is normal to speculate upon the possibility that she was scared and confused. In her home town of Nazareth, there was no one she could talk to; and if she did, who would believe such a story? Even Joseph didn’t believe her at first.
But there was also a confidence in her that trusted in what the angel had said. And in that trust, Mary replied, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Instead of giving in to anxiety and fear, she embraced the belief that God would see her through any trials she would ultimately have to face.
Mary didn’t give in to her anxieties; she didn’t run away. She just kept repeating her “yes” to the Lord, over and over again. In essence, her words, in our colloquial way of speaking of expressing ourselves, would have been, “Yes, Lord, whatever You ask. Whatever is needed. None of this makes any sense to me, but I know You love me, Lord, and You would not ask this if it were not for the good of Your children, if it were not for the good of the world.”
And so, as Mary spoke one “yes”, the Lord gave her the grace to speak the next one, and then the next, and the next – one at a time. And thus, with each moment in time and with each “yes” she gave, and with the help of God’s grace, she was faithful to the very end!
It is the same for you and me. When life becomes difficult because of one trial after another, and it is hard to keep faith in the midst of our own anxieties and deeply-rooted concerns, and we begin to notice that it seems difficult to stand firm in our own commitments – it is then when our Lord is truly close to us; though, at times, He may not seem to be.
And it was thus for the people of Micah’s day. Micah was what is known as a minor prophet, and he lived during the time of the prophet Isaiah. It was during this time that the kingdom of Israel came to an end. Samaria was taken and Israel, comprised of the 10 northern tribes of the “Children of Israel”, was carried away into Assyria.
In the midst of their despair, feeling that God had abandoned them, Micah reminds them that God will deliver them, offering hope in the midst of darkness and anxiety:
“Thus says the LORD: You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times…He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD…his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.”
The prophet Micah was encouraging the people of Israel that from the smallest shall come forth the revelation of God’s greatness – that even in the midst of the shadows of darkness, God is always there. In our trust in His goodness, He will rescue us from the anxieties and concerns of this world. And in our deliverance, we shall find lasting peace and joy.
In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author is reminding us that Christ came into the world to fulfill His Father’s will. And His will was to bring us into a oneness with Himself – into a close and intimate relationship with the God who loves us beyond all understanding, and who wishes to fill us with the peace and joy which only He can give.
And this joy and this peace are realized in the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, and also the meeting between the Eternal Word in Mary’s womb and His herald in Elizabeth’s – John, who, in the spirit of Elijah, was to become the greatest of all the prophets!
Mary had been greeted by an angel, and trusted what she hears in her soul. Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting and trusts what she hears and feels within her body. Elizabeth greets Mary with a tender benediction: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
If Mary had any anxieties or concerns herself, she set them aside in order to live the commandment of love in her own soul, placing the needs of her cousin before her own. As Mary visited and stayed with and cared for her cousin Elizabeth until John was born, the approaching birth of the Christ Child teaches us that God visits and stays with His children, as you and I journey through our veil of tears on this side of the eternal.
And in staying with us, He continues to strengthen us through the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. In giving Himself to us, He gives us life. And in that life, we have hope. And just as Mary, with the Christ Child within her, gave hope and joy to Elizabeth, so too, through the Eucharist within us, God also gives us the grace to give hope and joy to others.
As we look around us and see the decorated houses and the wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree, and the stockings filled with all sorts of good things hung with care, it is easy for some to think that Christmas is just for children.
But for those of us who seek intimacy in this life with God, it is the spirit of Christmas which grows within us. It is the spirit of Christmas that reminds us of God’s Love, and how we are also to love selflessly as Christ loves each of us.
On this last Sunday of Advent, may our hearts not give in to despair, anxiety or fear of any sort. In faith and in love, may we give selflessly as Mary gave to Elizabeth, as Christ continues to give to each one of us – for that is what being Christ-like is truly all about!
That is the true spirit of the Christmas season to which each of us is called to live each and every day of our lives.
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Thus says the LORD: You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times… He shall take his place as shepherd by the strength of the LORD.” (Micah 5:1, 3a)
- “…his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth: he shall be peace.” (Micah 5:3c-4a)
- “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’” (Luke 1:38ab)
- “Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:7)
- “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45)
- “Praise the LORD, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! His mercy for us is strong; the faithfulness of the LORD is forever.” (Psalm 117:1-2b)
- “It is the LORD who goes before you; he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
- “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 30:22)
- “And Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.’” (Luke 1:46-47)
- “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)
Prayer for the Day
“Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord,cf. Collect, Fourth Sunday of Advent (Roman Missal)
Your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ Your Son
was made known by the message of an Angel,
may, by His Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection,
where we shall eternally realize the wonder of Your promises.
“We humbly pray this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”