24 December 2017. Fourth Sunday of Advent
See also the Vigil Mass of Christmas Eve
1st Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-5; 8-12; 14-16
God will build a house for king David
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.
2nd Reading: Romans 16:25-27
Closing doxology of the Epistle
Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith-to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
The annunciation to Mary, of her future motherhood
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel as sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
With joyful trust
[José Antonio Pagola]
“Rejoice” is God’s first message to Mary hears from God and it’s a message we badly need today. Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, is the prototype and model for the Church, a humble disciple who listens to God with trust and joy. With that same attitude we should listen to God in the Church today. Our Church seems lacking on joy and often seems grown old and worn-out. Is Jesus no longer Good News? Do we no longer feel the joy of being his followers? Where joy is lacking, faith loses its freshness, courtesy disappears, friendship grows cold. It’s urgent to awaken joy in our communities and recover the peace that Jesus has left us as an inheritance.
“The Lord is with you.” Joy can only be born of trust in God. Each day we call on God our Father who accompanies us, defends us, and seeks always the good of every human being. God is also with us. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is looking for us. His Spirit is attracting us. We count on its strength and understanding. Jesus hasn’t abandoned us. With him everything is possible.
“Don’t be afraid.” Doubt and fear can paralyze Jesus’ followers. Fear of the modern world and of an unbelieving society. Fear of an uncertain future. Fear of a conversion to the Gospel. Fear is doing us much harm. It keeps us from walking toward the future with hope. It encloses us in the sterile conservation of the past. Our fantasies grow. Healthy realism and Gospel sense disappear. In our communities we also need to listen to the words that Mary hears: “Don’t be afraid.”
“You will give birth to a son, and will give him the name Jesus.” As with Mary, we too are given a mission: be a part of bringing light in the midst of darkness. We aren’t called to judge the world, but to sow hope and spread the joy of the Gospel.
We are not here to quench the smoldering wick, but to light up the faith that in so many is ready to be born. We need to help men and women of today to discover Jesus. Within our communities we can be leaven for a healthier and more human world. We are in good hands. God isn’t in crisis. It’s we who haven’t followed Jesus with enough joy and trust. Mary needs to be our model of joyful trust this Christmas.
Choosing the right person
If you were to ask a married couple how they came to fall in love, or asked two good friends how they came to be friends, they may have difficulty answering and might say something like, “It just happened.” In one sense that may be true. In another sense it didn’t just happen. If two people are in a significant relationship with each other, be it marriage or friendship, it is because they have chosen each other. Why does someone choose one person rather than another as a spouse or friend? Why does someone choose to share his or her life with someone else? This is the mystery of human freedom, human preference. The more significant relationships cannot be forced. Love is freely bestowed by one person on another; the other freely receives what is bestowed and freely reciprocates, and a new relationship is born. There is a depth about all that.
If there is mystery in the relationship of one human being with another, even more so in the relationship between God and us. Why did God choose Mary to be the mother of his Son? Why this particular woman in this small village at this particular time of human history? It was the mysterious freedom and preference of God. Yet, there is a difference between God’s choice of Mary and the choice any one of us might make of another. When any one of us chooses another to love or to befriend, there is always, of necessity, an exclusive element to that choice. We choose this person rather than any number of others. Although we choose several people in the course of our lives in each case our choice of one excludes others.
God’s choice of Mary was not exclusive in that sense. In choosing Mary, he was choosing all of us. He chose Mary for all our sakes. God chose her to carry God’s Son on behalf of us all, because her future child was God’s gift to us all. That is why how Mary responded to God’s choice of her was not just a matter that concerned herself. It concerned us all. We all had a vested interest in how she responded. Her response would also be our response. In a sense we looked to her to make an appropriate response on behalf of us all to God’s choice of us.
The good news is that Mary did not let us down. Although initially disturbed and perplexed by the message, she eventually surrendered fully to that mysterious choice of God. Having been graced in this mysterious way, she responded wholeheartedly, “Let it be to me according to your word.” God freely chose her, and she in turn chose to place her freedom at God’s service. God’s choice of Mary, and her choice of God in response had the most wonderful consequences for all of us. She went on to sing, “the Almighty has done great things for me.” And because of her response to God’s choice, we can all sing, “the Almighty has done great things for us.” We have all been graced through Mary’s response to God’s choice of her.
Welcoming the grace of God
Our Scriptures today draw attention to God’s gracious initiative towards us. The focus is not what we must do for God but rather what God wants to do for us. We read how King David wanted to do something really big for God, no less than to build a beautiful temple as a house of worship. David was a doer who had already achieved a great deal. Yet he hears from the prophet Nathan that God did not want David to build a temple. Rather, it was God who would do something for David: for centuries to come David’s descendants would lead God’s people. The king had to let go of his great plans and learn to allow God to grace him.
Receiving from others isn’t that easy. We like to be the givers, the organizers, the achievers. To let others give to us is to acknowledge our need, our dependence, our limitations, and that does not always come easy. Maybe we sense that to allow ourselves to be graced by others is to put ourselves under obligation to them and we are slow to do that. That reluctance to receive can carry over into our relationship with God.
The heart of the good news is that we come from a gracious God who wants to give us all things. As St Paul says, God who gave us his own Son, will also give us whatever else we need. This is the special time of year when we allow God to be the God of abundant grace in our regard; it is a time when we come before him in our need and open ourselves to his gracious love and presence.
Gabhfaidh tú gin agus béarfaidh tú mac.
Roimhe seo scríobh Lúcás faoi theachtaireacht an aingil Gaibriél do’n sagart Zachairias faoi choimpeart Eoin Baiste. Sa séú mí ina dhiaidh sin cuireadh an Gaibriél chéanna go Muire i Nazarat. Tugtar maighdean ar Mhuire, agus tá an focal sin maighdean lárnach don cur síos. Bíodh go raibh sí luaite i bpósadh le Iósaef dúirt sí le Gaibriél nach raibh aithne fir aici fós (“gan cuid agam d’fhear céile”). Trí neart Dé ag oibriú tríd an Spiorad Naomh, is coimpeart maighdeanúil a bheidh aici. De réir sin, is Íosa an Té a gineadh agus nach ndearnadh.
Chuir beannú an aingil ionadh ar Mhuire: “Sé do bheatha atá lán de ghrásta”; is é sin le rá “a Mhuire a bhfuil gnaoi ort”, faoi meas agus onóir faoi leith, toisc go bhfuil an Tiarna léi, agus beannaithe idir mná, mar a dúirt Eiliosaibeit níos deireannaí. Bhí buaireamh ar Mhuire toisg an bheannú seo; ní deireann an Soiscéal amhras ach buaireamh, a chuir ag machtnamh í. Luaitear machtnamh Mhuire ar an rúndiamhair cúpla uair eile ag Lúcás. Ná bíodh eagla ort, adeir an Aingeal. Tá Muire le leanbh a thabhairt ar an saol, agus í le Iosa a thabhairt air. “Slánú Dé” is brí leis an ainm sín, agus glaofar Mac Dé (“Mac an Té is airde”) air – agus beidh sé ina rí ar theaghlach Iácób as sin go brách, agus ní bhéidh deireadh lena ríocht.
Trí bhreith íosa, beidh comhlánú and comhlíonadh an ghealltanais a tugadh don rí Dháiví fadó, agus i bfhad níos mó ná sin. Spreagann an ghealltanas sin, faoi mhac Mhuire ina oidhre ar Dháivi, an ceist ó Mhuire: “Conas is féidir?”, toisc gur maighdean í, gan caidreanmh gnéis le fear a bheith aici fós. Tugann Gaibriél freagra ó Dhia. Déanfar an coimpeart tríd an Spiorad Naomh, trí chumhacht an Té is airde, agus toisc gur Mac Dé é beidh sé naofa, finné do Dhia, Slánaitheoir.
Cuirtear Muire inár láthair inniú mar eiseamláir den fhíorcheidmheach, mar a duirt Eiliosaibeit lei: Is méanar di seo a chreid. Eiseamláir leis ina freaga deiridh do Gaibréil tar éis a ceisteanna agus soiléiriú: “Féach mise banóglach an Tiarna; déantar dom de réir d’fhocail”.