4th Sunday of Advent
The first reading for this weekend is from the Second Book of Samuel. The two Books of Samuel once 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 kingship so that his laws and directives might provide an atmosphere in which the people more fervently could 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 AD, 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, this great imperial capital had within its borders an array of ideas and religions, Christianity among them.
In this weekend’s reading, as often elsewhere, Paul asserts his own vocation as an apostle, called by God 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. Himself a king, he will be David’s successor.
His coming will fulfill God’s promises, spoken by the prophets all through the ages, to bring life and salvation to the people. His birth will be the ultimate fulfillment 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.” Only because of her faith and obedience was the Redeemer’s birth enabled.
In each of these readings, the Church makes a very important point. God reaches out to us. He is not impossible to see or to hear. He is in Jesus.
The outreach occurs in the face of our own inadequacy and limitations. Blindness and weakness are not the only problems. We are marred by sin, distancing us from God. God is almighty. God is love. These are the most consoling points here. God’s great love for us prompts the dispatch of teachers such as David, Paul and indeed the Lord Jesus, to guide us to union with God and therefore to peace in our hearts now and life in eternity.
So, the Church closes Advent and approaches Christmas with a message of love. God loves us. He does not leave us helpless in our own powerlessness. He reaches to us to draw us to the divine presence itself. We are not doomed.
It is up to us to respond. Do we accept God? Or, do we turn God away? It is that simple.
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