Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel
December 23, 2023 // Perspective

It Is Never too Late to Turn to Christ to Seek His Mercy

Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel

Fourth Sunday of 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 through the centuries divided this one volume into two.

David is the principal figure in these books. The ancient Hebrews looked upon David as much more than a king. Beyond all else, he was God’s chosen representative, given the kingship so that laws and circumstances would provide an atmosphere in which the people more fervently would be loyal to God.

For this weekend’s second reading, the Church offers us a reading from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Scholars say that Paul of Tarsus authored this epistle, and that this epistle was his theological masterpiece. For this reason, it appears first in sequence among the 14 epistles attributed to Paul.

As indicated by its title, Paul sent this epistle, or letter, to the Christian population of Rome. In the first century A.D., Rome was the center of the Mediterranean world in every respect – political, economic, and cultural. It 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 know, 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 – the 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. Her maternity of the Redeemer would not result from any human relationship. God, as Creator and the provider of order to the universe, can do anything. The Redeemer will be the Son of God, David’s successor, the hope of the world.

His coming would fulfill God’s promises, spoken by the prophets through all the ages, to bring life and salvation to the people.

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.”

God’s mercy never ceases. His outreach is not a conquest. Each person must freely choose to turn to God. 


When the Second World War ended, allied troops in Germany captured several of Adolf Hitler’s principal accomplices, who were indispensable in creating the greatest reign of terror ever seen on earth.

American soldiers guarded them in a prison. An American Army chaplain, a Franciscan priest, was assigned as chaplain. The priest tried to bring the German figures to peace with God. One of them, from a Catholic background, would have nothing of it. Making no apologies for the evil committed by his commands, hatred spewed from his heart.

Many urged the priest to forget this man, but the priest said he would never give up. The Church never gives up on anyone. Christ never gave up. Ignoring insults, he continued to try to interact with the German.

Convicted of terrible crimes, and sentenced to death, soldiers led the German to the scaffold, the priest walking beside him, refusing to give up.

On the scaffold, the German paused. “My Jesus, mercy,” he said. The priest absolved him. The man died at peace with God.

A dramatic story, but with one day of Advent left, it reminds us that it is never too late to turn to Jesus, wholeheartedly, truly, and joyfully.

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