4th Sunday in Advent
The first reading for this weekend is from the Second Book of Samuel. Once the two Books of Samuel were a single volume. Translations and editions over the centuries divided this one volume into two.
David is the principal figure in these books. The ancient Hebrews looked upon David much more than as a king. Beyond all else, he was God’s chosen representative, given the kingship so that laws and circumstances might provide an atmosphere in which the people more fervently would follow God and be loyal to the Covenant.
For this weekend’s second reading, the Church offers us a reading from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.
Scholars unanimously say that Paul of Tarsus indeed authored this epistle, and that this epistle was his masterpiece. For this reason, it appears first in sequence among the 14 epistles attributed to Paul, placed in Bibles immediately following the Acts of the Apostles.
As indicated by its title, Paul sent this epistle, or letter, to the Christian population of Rome. In the first century, Rome was the center of the Mediterranean world in every respect, political, economic and cultural. It also was the largest city in the Roman Empire. Not surprisingly, Rome, the great imperial capital, had within its borders a great array of ideas and religions, Christianity among them.
In this weekend’s reading, as often elsewhere, Paul asserts his own vocation as an apostle. His vocation from God came so that “all the Gentiles” might believe in, and obey, God, “who alone is wise.”
For the final reading this weekend, the Church proclaims a beautiful part of St. Luke’s Gospel, of Luke’s Infancy Narrative. It is the story of the Annunciation, the event when Gabriel, the angel, came into the presence of Mary, a young Jewish woman, in Nazareth in Galilee, to inform her that she would be the mother of the long-awaited Redeemer.
The reading abounds with meaning. Luke makes clear that Mary was a virgin, and that the conception of the Redeemer would not be the result of any human relationship. Behind this fact is the reality that God, as Creator and the provider of order to the universe, can do anything. He is almighty. The Redeemer will be the Son of God. He will be David’s successor.
The Redeemer’s coming will fulfill God’s promises, spoken by the prophets all through the ages, to bring life and salvation to the people. The birth of this Redeemer will be the ultimate satisfaction of the ancient Covenant.
Vital to the message of the story is Mary’s response. “I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.”
In each of these readings, speaking through the Scriptures, the Church makes a very important point. God reaches out to us. This outreach is not vague, pointed to a few, or impossible to see. It came in the persons of individuals with whom we can relate, David, Paul and Jesus.
This outreach occurs as response to our own inadequacy and limitations. God is almighty, but God’s supreme power over all creation is not the most consoling point here. Rather, the most reassuring factor is that God’s great love for us prompts the dispatch of messengers such as David, Paul and Jesus, to guide us to union with God and therefore to peace in our hearts and life in eternity.
The Church approaches Christmas strongly convinced of the fact of God’s love. God’s love saves us. He does not leave us helpless in our own powerlessness. He reaches to us to draw us to the divine presence itself.
It now is up to us to respond. Do we accept God? Or, do we turn God away? It is that simple.
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