4th Sunday Of Advent – Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Jesus, The Promised Messiah”.
There have been, and still are, many people in the world pretending to be ‘messiahs’ and ‘saviours’ of humanity. What to think of them? The reading of today tells us that there is only one Messiah sent by God: Jesus, the son of Mary.
In the first reading we have seen the prophecy of Nathan; the descendants of David will have an eternal Kingdom.
The second reading is a song of praise for His wonderful works.
In the Gospel Jesus is presented as the expected Messiah. He is the promised King that will sit on the throne of his father David for all times.
God’s promise of a house that will last forever is still being fulfilled in our time. It awaits our response. Like Mary, let us respond positively, thus taking part in the establishment of the Kingdom.
Guide to ‘Live’ the Sunday Liturgy:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
If at all possible, share this Bible Reflection time with a family member, a friend or someone you wish to bring to Christ. Jesus said in Mt. 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests, bishops and Catholic theologians who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a ‘Prayer’ are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. With faith and perseverance, we will start to put into practice the Lord’s teachings; begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love, God’s will, and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. Meditations and Prayer on the Reflections should be done daily – first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
It may be necessary to pray and repeat the study of the Bible Readings and Commentaries more than once, or even on a daily basis, if you feel that you have not yet grasped the Lord’s special message for you.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14a, 16.
The first reading finds the aging King David at a time when his most crucial battles were behind him and he could turn his attention to other matters. It dawned on him that the Lord of Israel had only a tent to live in.
When people feel that they are getting close to their end they reflect back on their lives and try to put things straight with God by devoting more attention to prayer, to charities, etc. During his last few years, David, perhaps regretting the violence and sins in his life, began turning over in his mind a fixed idea: to build a Temple to the Lord. He did not think it right that he should live comfortably in his palace while the ‘Arc of the Covenant’, the symbol of God’s presence among his people, was still housed in a shepherd’s tent.
He called in his counsellor, the prophet Nathan, and told him of his project. Taken by surprise, the prophet approved the king’s plan, but as he reflected on it during the same night, he saw that God did not want the Temple to be built by David but by his son Solomon. Why? The Book of Chronicles gives this reason: “You have spilt too much blood and fought great wars; it is not for you to build a house to my name, since you have shed much blood on this earth. Your son … will be a man of peace… He must build a house in my name” (1 Chr. 22:8-10).
Nathan did not stop at the problem of building the Temple but continued his prophesy in reply to the other great doubt worrying David: the succession to his throne. He told the king: “You will not be the one to build a house for God. God himself will instead build a stable, a solid and eternal house for you. What house did the prophet mean? The word ‘house’ in the Bible is not just used for material buildings made of bricks, but it also stands for ‘family’ and ‘posterity’. Nathan used the word house in these senses. God, through the words of the prophet was promising David that a ‘son’ of his would succeed him and that his dynasty would reign forever; the throne of Israel would always belong to his family.
Anyone listening to the words of Nathan must have thought that the prophet was just trying to cheer up David (poor old man!) with some nice words that could never come true; but God meant all of them! In the history of Israel this prophecy came to have an extraordinary importance. When the descendants of David came to find themselves in very difficult situations, the prophets would hearten them with the reminder that God was faithful to his promise. Even when the Babylonian armies put an end to the dynasty of David, the people of Israel knew that God’s words were irrevocable; thus they began expecting a great new king, a descendant of David, who would make Israel once again powerful and its reign permanent.
The fulfilment of this prophecy went far beyond what David could imagine or even what the prophet Nathan intended. They were thinking of an earthly kingdom, while God gave David a descendant who was to reign forever: Jesus the son of Mary. While Israel was expecting a strong and powerful king, God sent a poor and defenceless child. Such are God’s surprises!
Psalm: 89:2-5, 27, 29.
The Psalm has the focus exactly right: ‘I shall sing forever of the loving mercies of YHWH; and from generation to generation I shall make known your fidelity with my mouth’. The Psalm is about God’s faithfulness, and not about David’s wonderful achievements. It is God, who said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to my servant David: I shall establish your offspring forever and shall build your throne from generation to generation.’ Christians find these words fulfilled in the coming of Christ at Christmas; but it is imperative that we realize that this house building (family of God) is God’s doing, not ours. The part of the Psalm that we shall hear ends ‘He shall call me ‘Father’…I shall keep my steadfast love for him forever.
A ‘mystery’ is something for us that we cannot understand; but here Paul means a different thing: it is a plan of salvation, known to God from all eternity and hidden to everyone else. The ‘Incarnation of the Son of God’ begins to reveal this ‘mystery,’ which becomes visible and understandable to humanity. As it is being accomplished, we too can see with growing clearness the loving plan that the Father has prepared from all eternity. For Paul this loving plan is the construction of a new humanity, reconciled with God.
The second reading tells us also how God fulfilled his promise to David. Paul tells the Romans that the good news he preaches is “the proclamation of Jesus Christ, that was kept secret for ages but is now disclosed and is being made to all the Gentiles to bring about the obedience of faith to the ‘One’ only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.”
On this last Sunday before Christmas we focus on Mary, the Mother of Jesus. An angel tells her about the birth of the Messiah. There are many stories in the Old Testament where the birth of someone important is foretold. However, in most of them the hero will arrive as the child of an elderly or barren woman.
Mary is still a young virgin. She is at the beginning of her adult life when God enters it and calls her to give it a direction she had not expected. God asks her to become the mother of his Son, Jesus. Mary does not understand all that is implied but responds with a trusting ‘Yes’ to what she has understood.
Mary is not merely a virgin, but is the ‘Blessed Virgin’, prepared to be ‘God’s house’ as promised to David (first reading). It is the work of God’s grace. The virginal conception is the story of divine power at work because the child conceived is a person who already exists. ‘If God had to be born, it could only be of a virgin and if a virgin had to give birth, she could only give birth to God’ (St Augustine). The divinity of the child necessitated a virgin birth.
God has entered into the life of Mary and Joseph and they acknowledge that their love for each other will become God’s instrument to realize his plans for humanity. Mary has received her mission to become the mother of Jesus. She realizes how important her mission is when she is told what the mission of her Child will be. ‘He will be great and the Son of the most High, the Son of God’.
The Messiah was expected to come from the family of David, and in Jesus, God will fulfil the promise that David’s house will rule forever. Jesus is the Messiah arising from David’s stock. Mary is told what name to give the child. He is to be called Jesus. Names, in the Bible, always express a mission. Jesus’ mission, as revealed before his birth, is to be the ‘Saviour’ of God’s people, to help them re-establish their relationship with God that had been spoilt by sin. Jesus will be called ‘Saviour’ because he will heal both physically and spiritually and so save people from different kinds of bondage.
At Christmas we remember and celebrate that in Jesus, God has given us a ‘Saviour’. Through Jesus we have entered into a new, life-giving relationship with the Father where we can experience our own personal liberation from sin. If we say a total ‘yes’ to God we will feel the love, joy and peace that is the sign of God’s children. God has a destiny in mind for us that is far greater than we could ever imagine for ourselves.
Who among us, could have imagined that a baby born in a stable grows up to be a wandering preacher and healer who is brutally put to death and being the Son of God is raised from the dead, thereby making it possible for us to have a share in the divine life? God’s promise of a house that will last forever is still being fulfilled in our time. It awaits our response. Like Mary, let us respond positively, thus taking part in the coming of the Kingdom.
Father, you so loved the world that you gave your only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. Lord of Hosts, for the ‘Love’ you offer us, we give you thanks.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 4th Sunday of Advent Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Israel was expecting a strong and powerful king, like David, Elijah or Moses. Without the benefit of hindsight and the teachings of the Church, what form of Messiah would you have expected? Powerful and glorious or meek and humble or a Lion or a Lamb?
Mon. … Wanting a secure place to put God into is part of our finite, human urge to try to contain and control what is boundless. No matter how often we try to define a place for God in our lives, God will elude our efforts. Frequently we think we know what God needs and wants from us. David had the prophet Nathan to guide him; we need to remain attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit at all times. This can be achieved from the graces given to us in the sacraments.
Tue. … The First Reading and the Psalm highlights the faithfulness and fidelity of the Father to his people. How faithful are we to the covenant we made with God at our Baptism and our Confirmation? Do we put God first in our lives above all things and all people or in a place of convenience where our own lives and plans won’t be disrupted too much?
Wed. … The second reading tells us also how God fulfilled his promise to David. Paul tells the Romans that the ‘Good News’ he preaches is “the proclamation of Jesus Christ, that was kept secret for ages but is now disclosed and is being made to all the Gentiles to bring about the obedience of faith to the ‘One’ only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.” The Incarnation reveals the loving plan the Father has prepared for us for all eternity, i.e. to be reconciled with him. Are we being responsive to his plan by allowing God to work through us?
Thurs. … Mary was deeply disturbed when she had been given a direction from God that she had least expected. Not as one torn apart by sorrow, disappointment or anxiety, but disturbed like a green field opened up by the plough for a new planting. Neither did she understand all that was implied, but responded with a trusting ‘Yes’. A divine encounter changes everything, all that one has ever known or hoped for, the ambitions, standards and values once respected; nothing can ever be the same again. In this new light Mary declares her identity: ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord.” And her vocation: ‘Let what you have said be done to me.’ How do we react to God’s call each and every day? Can we truly say in total humility, “Lord, do with me what you will”?
Frid. … During this ‘4th.Week of Advent’ we await with Hope and Love the coming of our Saviour who will bring healing both physically and spiritually and deliver us from all forms of bondage.
Sat. … On the eve of the greatest gift to humankind, we need to contemplate on our response to the Father. This gift of ‘Love’ from God needs to be answered with a gift of love from us. Today, let us truly start loving our neighbour as we join all our efforts in preparing the way for the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, Mary fully responded to be chosen for her role, while we still remain hesitant and half-hearted about what You ask of us. We pray for Your grace to make our faith strong to put our freedom, our whole person at the service of Your divine plan.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.