Fourth Sunday of Advent (A)
December 22, 2019
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

 

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent (A)

Collect

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,
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.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Proper Chants

 Introit

 

 

V/. Skies, let the Just One come forth like the dew, let him descend from the clouds like the rain. The earth will open up and give birth to our Saviour.  Ps./ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims the work of his hands. Day unto day conveys the message, *and night unto night imparts theknowledge.

 

Offertory

 

 

V/. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. R/. But Mary said to the angel, *“how can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”

Communion

 

V/. Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. Ps/.   The heavens declare the glory of God, *and the firmament proclaims the work of his hands. Day unto day conveys the  message, *and night unto night imparts the knowledge.

 

Liturgy of the Word

Reading 1 Is 7:10-14

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, "Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test." And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman'u-el.

Reading 2 Rom 1:1-7

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel Mt 1:18-24

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife.

Reflection Questions:

 

  1. What might you be hesitant to seek from the Lord that is “deep as the netherworld or high as the sky?”
  1. What challenges are you facing with regard to the “obedience of faith?”
  1. What dreams in your life go unfulfilled due to fear?

 

Catena Nova

 

Speaking mysteries in the Spirit, the inspired Prophet foretold that God would be with us, naming him “Emmanuel” in consideration of his divine nature and of the plan whereby he became incarnate. The blessed angel on the other hand called him by a name that signified his function: he has in fact saved his people, and on this account he is called “Saviour” This is how hosts of angels announced the Good News to the shepherds at the time when he humbled himself to be born in the flesh for our sake: Be not afraid,they said; today we bring you good tidings of a great joy for the whole people: a saviour has been born this day in the city of David, and he is Christ the Lord. Rightly then is he named Emmanuel, because being God by nature he became God-with-us when he was made human. And yet he is also named Jesus, because being God, and being made human, he had the task of saving the world (St. Cyril of Alexandria).

Even if I were to keep silence, my friends, the season would warn us that the birthday of Christ our Lord is at hand. The year is coming to an end and forestalls the subject of my sermon. The depressing shortness of the days itself testifies to the imminence of some event which will bring about the betterment of a world urgently longing for a brighter sun to dispel its darkness. In spite of fearing that its course may be terminated within a few brief hours, the world still shows signs of hope that its yearly cycle will once more be renewed. And if creation feels this hope, it persuades us also to hope that Christ will come like a new sunrise to shed light on the darkness of our sins, and that the Sun of Justice, in the vigour of his new birth, will dispel the long night of guilt from our hearts. Rather than allow the course of our life to come to an end with such appalling brevity, we are confident that he will extend it by his powerful grace (St. Maximus of Turin).

The messianic Kingdom is not inaugurated by a sudden stroke of the sword, nor by an earthquake shattering buildings and destroying whole provinces; it rather resembles a little plant, which, watered by the dews of heaven and kissed by the warm rays of the day-star, grows and flourishes in despite of every obstacle (Ildefonso Schuster).

Before God comes to us, He demands preparation. He will not force His gifts upon us. We must desire them, we must be spiritually hungry. Advent desire means that we must cultivate a fruitful soil for the seed of grace, that we must become receptive to God’s kingdom….This desire and longing for God’s kingdom sh ou ld be sustained throughout life, nourished like a holy light and never permitted to be extinguished. We may fail, we may go astray, or we may be infatuated with earthly things, but if a glimmer of this light remains, we will find our way out of the labyrinth. The only one lost is the one who chokes out this light completely. Advent’s great task, therefore, is to re-enkindle desire, our hope in the kingdom of God (Pius Parsch).

It is now surely clear how the Virgin is the royal way by which the Saviour has drawn near to us, coming forth from her womb as a Bridegroom from His bridal chamber. Holding on, therefore, to this way, let us endeavour to ascend to Him by her, through Whom He descended to us ; let us seek His grace through her by whom He came to succour our need.  O blessed finder of grace ! Mother of life ! Mother of salvation ! may we through thee have access to thy Son, that through thee we may be received by Him Who through thee was given to us. May thy integrity and purity excuse before Him the stain of our corruption ; may thy humility, so pleasing to God, obtain from Him the pardon of our vanity. May thy abundant charity cover the multitude of our iniquity, and thy glorious fruitfulness supply our indigence of merits. Our Lady, our Mediatrix, our Advocate, reconcile us to thy Son, commend us to thy Son, present us to thy Son. By the grace thou hast found, by the prerogative thou didst merit, by the mercy thou didst bring forth, obtain, O blessed one, that He Who vouchsafed to become partaker of our infirmity and misery, may, through thy intercession, make us partakers of His blessed ness and glory, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, Who is God blessed above all for evermore. Amen (St. Bernard of Clairvaux).

O almighty, omnipotent, eternal God, what greater proof of love could You give Your poor creatures than the gift of Your Word, Your only-begotten Son? For our sake, You clothed with human flesh, like the flesh of sin, Him who is eternal splendor, the perfect image of Your substance!...God of goodness, who art above all goodness, You alone art sovereign good! You gave us the Word, Your only Son, to live with us, to assume our evil, corrupt nature. Why did You make us such a gift? Out of love, because You loved us even before we existed….O eternal Greatness, O fathomless Bounty, You lowered Yourself to ennoble humanity! Wherever I turn, I can see nothing but the abyss and fire of Your charity (St. Catherine of Siena).

By his own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent. He was absolutely helpless; he could go nowhere but where she chose to take him; he could not speak; her breathing was his breath; his heart beat in the beating of her heart. Today Christ is dependent upon us. … This dependence of Christ lays a great trust upon us.  During this tender time of Advent we must carry him in our hearts to wherever he wants to go, and there are many places he may never go unless we take him to them (Caryll Houselander).

Homily

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT (A)

Readings: Is. 7:10-14; Rm. 1:1-7; Mt. 1:18-24

Great Expectations

 

            Talk about a change of plans!  Dear Joseph.  There he was getting ready for his wedding day.  The food was ordered, the guests invited, the rabbi hired.  And then she told him: “I’m pregnant.”  It must have sent him reeling.  Can’t you hear the discussion that followed?   “Who was it?  Who did this to you?  Were you. . . um, were you. . .you know. . .like. . .I mean. . .?  Oh God, I can’t even think about that.”

            “No, nothing like that,” she might have said.  Followed by the real zinger: “An angel appeared to me.”  “Right,” he must have thought.  “She’s in denial.  What am I going to do?  Does she know what they’ll do to her when they find out?  She must.  That’s why she’s making this story up.  What am I going to do?  I don’t want to see her stoned in public.  Yet I can’t believe that nonsense about an angel.  And I certainly can’t take her as my wife.  Even if it wasn’t her fault, I don’t think I could trust her again.  Besides, I don’t want to raise someone else’s child.  What am I going to do?”

            Sleep must have come in fits of restless worry.  A few minutes here and there.  Stressed out like nobody’s business; and long before he would be hearing angels too.  But sure enough, he did: Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (G).

            Dreams are funny things, aren’t they?  Some people think God speaks to us in dreams.  Others think dreams are the work of the devil.  Some of us dream in color, others in black and white.  Some people record their dreams, and reflect on them; others claim they don’t dream at all, or at least don’t remember them.  Most people, I guess, feel they’re nothing at all.

            But a dream sure helped Joseph decide what to do.  So there must be something to them.  At the very least, dreams open us to new vistas, to things we would never imagine possible in waking life.  Something like Isaiah saying, Ask for a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven (I).

            But like Ahaz, we tend to reject what doesn’t fit in with our too-narrow expectations, don’t we? And nothing seems more at odds with “reality” than our dreams.  They strike us as mere fantasy, little more than “remains of the day.”  “It was only a dream,” we say.  Just like Ahaz who refused Isaiah’s offer of a big dream:  I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test (I), he said.  After all, virgins don’t have children.  Or do they?

            See, God is never content just to meet our expectations.  Indeed, God always exceeds our expectations.  But that’s something we don’t expect, now is it?  And I suppose that’s why God sometimes speaks to us in ways that surprise us.  Like when daytime messengers fail to move us, so dreams must serve as messengers of God: “Angels of the Lord” who speak the language of the unconscious.

            Take Paul for instance.  He was unmoved by people like Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  He even took part in Stephen’s death for preaching the gospel.  To Paul, the Messiah these Christians believed in--declared to be Son of God with power. . .by resurrection from the dead (II) -- such a Messiah was beyond expectations.  So God found another means to reach Paul.  The Lord spoke to him on the road to Damascus in a vision.  And more visions would follow until, before you knew it, a servant of Jesus Christ was born: called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (cf. II).

            Then there’s Peter.  God told Peter in a dream the gospel was meant for more than Jews, and that Gentile converts did not have to follow the Law of Moses.  That wasn’t something Peter was very open to in waking life.  It was totally unexpected.  But if it weren’t for wider visions and bolder dreams, the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles would not have been preached, including to [us] who are called to belong to Jesus Christ (cf. II).

            So with Advent drawing to a close, we’re still on the lookout for the unexpected.  Looking for the many ways God is with us (G) -- often where we least expect.  Including moments of bewilderment, when something hits us between the eyes, and changes our lives forever.  When plans go suddenly awry, forcing us to question who we are.   When something we formerly trusted, becomes a source of doubt.  A pregnant pause making us stop and wonder how God could be present in the sleep of despair.

            It’s Advent times like these that call us to wake from this sleep, as Joseph did, to do as the angel of the Lord has commanded us.  Times that call us to listen for God in the dark, in voices we do not expect.  And to do so without fear, not dismissing the unexpected quietly, as Joseph first resolved to do, but rather taking it into our home, as he finally did.

                       All so we don’t weary [our] God with narrow visions and wispy dreams of what can or cannot be, what should or should not take place.  For the Lord himself will give us a sign. . .And we shall name [it] Immanuel (cf. I) – as long as we’re prepared for the unexpected, even for a Virgin to be found with child (cf. G).  Signs that bring us peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (II).  Who live and reign, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.