4th Sunday of Advent: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Power of God Manifests Itself Through Weakness.”
“God normally chooses the poor and weak to fulfil His work”.
In the first reading Micah tells us that the Lord will behave just as he always did: he will not have the Saviour come from a great city like Jerusalem, but from a small village, Bethlehem; he will not raise him from a great, rich and powerful family, but from a poor one, just as he had done with David at the beginning of the kingdom.
The second reading invites us to be ready and obedient like Jesus, so that God can manifest his great love through our smallness and our absence of pride.
The Gospel shows how this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus, the son of Mary. She, too, is one of the poor; she is one of those who go unnoticed by people but not by God.
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.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally 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. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love 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.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding
and accepting the word of God.”
King Hezekiah was a good man, but he had no leadership qualities or governing ability: he could not control things. Violence was widespread, court judges were corrupt, priests and prophets were only interested in making money and an arrogant minority had taken hold of all fields and exploited the farmers as well as the peasants. This disastrous situation is the background to Micah’s prophecy.
David’s descendents had been holding power over Israel for three hundred years, but their leadership had only brought disasters, oppression and hunger on the people. What was the cause of their mistakes? In the first place it was ‘pride’, and then their conviction that they could do without the Lord. They had forgotten that they had not become kings out of any merit or power of theirs, but God had transformed their lineage from a humble shepherd origin into a great king.
Now, says the prophet, from the human point of view there is no solution and no hope; but the Lord is about to intervene and “she who is in labour gives birth” (2) and from the descendents of David a new kingdom will begin. Micah might certainly have thought that the new king was to be one of this world, but God fulfilled the prophecy in a completely different way.
God waited for seven hundred more years and he brought forth from a woman named Mary, the expected child of David. We know that he was not arrogant like his forefathers, but fulfilled what is described in the second part of this reading (3-4a): he was a shepherd to Israel and led them “with the power of God”; he began a new world where all people will live safely in their own houses and there will be peace to the farthest boundaries of the earth.
The words of Micah are an invitation to hope. A future of justice and peace is in store for humankind, but if we want this salvation to manifest itself we must reject human logic and stop putting our trust in the power of arms, or in the alliance with the powerful or in the power of money or in the use of violence.
Our Christian communities must be the sign that there is already a new and alternative ‘way’ at work in the world. It is made up of people who refuse oppression and dominion over others, who believe in the power of love and forgiveness. These people reject all forms of violence and have given up accumulating wealth for themselves. When all human beings will accept this logic of Christ, then the prophecy of Micah will be completely fulfilled.
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19.
The Psalm reflects a time when Israel was threatened by foreign armies. God is invoked as a shepherd and as a king enthroned on the Cherubim who travelled with them on their journeys (1 Sam. 4:4). If he would smile on his people, all would be well.
In the passage of the letter to the Hebrews of today, we read the words of a man who thanks God for having been delivered from a serious illness. He says: I know, my Lord, that you take no pleasure in incense or in the flesh of kids offered up on the altar; I thus promise another thing: I will always do your will; I know that you like this (5-7).
The author continues, saying that Christ has accomplished himself in these words. He had not offered up a material sacrifice, but had said to his Father: “Here I come to do your will”, and thus abolished the old practice of offering up sacrifices in the Temple and ushered in the new times (8-10).
“I am coming!” says Christ. He comes during this period of Advent and asks us to reflect on what sort of sacrifices we are offering up to God. Are we glorifying him with songs, processions, prayers, incense and solemn liturgies? If all these rites were to be but mere exterior manifestations without an authentic conversion of the heart to always do God’s will, can we regard ourselves as being consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once and for all?
The distance of the journey between Nazareth, the home village of Mary, and Ein Karem, the traditional site for the home village of Zechariah and Elizabeth, is about 113 Km. To undertake such a long journey in those days, there must have been a real desire to share in the joy of another. Mary wanted to share in the joy of Elizabeth since God had intervened in her life.
Today’s Gospel shows us how to respond to the interventions of God in our lives. Mary sets out on a long trip that is more than just a physical journey to Judah across the hills of Galilee. It is also a spiritual journey.
The expression ‘to set out/arise/get up’ is one of Luke’s favourite expressions. ‘Getting up’ entails a determination to stop lying or sitting comfortably and to get moving. For Luke, ‘setting out’ means to get on the move for and with God, to do God’s will!
In a Christian Community we can easily become content with the way things have always been. We forget to ‘set out’ to discover other people around us who have been visited by God and to learn from them. Our prejudices are barriers preventing us to share with people of another social class or ethnic group.
We do not seem ready to make the first move and to set out like Mary to learn from it and to share what God does in our lives. The journey from ourselves to our ‘neighbour’ may be much nearer than Nazareth to Ein Karem. Yet we often never experience the joy of meeting and sharing with others because we never really make the effort to love others.
Mary goes on to share in the joy of her cousin Elizabeth, but, in fact, it is Elizabeth and the unborn John the Baptist who share in the joy of Mary and the unborn Jesus through the Holy Spirit. It is through Mary that God is seen to keep the promise announced through the prophet Micah so long ago. The promise of God will take flesh in her and will be formed in the person of Jesus.
Elizabeth proclaimed the ‘triple blessedness’ of Mary. “Of all women you are the most blessed.” Mary was someone specially chosen by God and prepared with extraordinary grace. ‘Blessed is the fruit of your womb’. The graces conferred to Mary bear divine fruits for all of us. Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled. The promise has a name: ‘Jesus’. He will fulfill all that has gone before and give new meaning to all that will happen after him. He stands at the very centre of time – BC/AD and he is the one who stands at the very centre of our lives.
The graces conferred by God have to be received with our co-operation. In Luke’s Gospel Mary is portrayed as the model disciple who hears the word of God and puts it in into practice. Elizabeth was honoured by the visit of the mother of the Lord. We are honoured in the coming of the Lord himself.
It is a shame, that for many people, the ‘Lord’s Day’ has been taken over by shopping sprees and in the indulgence of material things. Even the term “Blessed Christmas” has been replaced with ‘happy holidays’.
The feast of Christmas originated in the fourth century to counter the excessive orgies of the pagan festival of midwinter, when the sun begins to return in the northern hemisphere. Have we forgotten Christ and gone back to the pagan orgies of spending and gorging ourselves with eating, drinking and various pleasures? In this fourth week of Advent we are not just preparing for Christmas in a few days’ time, we are preparing for the final visitation in the Second coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. There is ‘more’ to Advent and Christmas than parties and presents. Make that ‘more’ transform your Christmas into a holy and joyful celebration in Christ our Lord.
As Christmas draws closer, pause, be still, push aside the cluttering of worldly things long enough to truly appreciate the wonder of Christ’s coming. At Christmas we celebrate the great event that Jesus is the ‘kept promise’ of God. He comes again into our hearts as a gift from the Father. Through obedience to God, Jesus became our ‘Redeemer’, we too, are called to be obedient to God’s will and honour our promises of holy Baptism.
As Advent closes, we thank God for keeping his word to us, and ask him to help us keep our word to him and to each other.
‘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 C, we reflect on …
Sun. … Is the world of today any different from the times of King Hezekiah in terms of moral values? We still seem to be making the same old mistakes, with the same old sinfulness. Despite the lessons given to us in our salvation history, there are many in our communities who still believe that they can do without the Lord. Have we forgotten that all the greatness humankind has achieved is not of our own merit but by the grace of God?
Mon. … The prophet Micah clearly states that from a human point of view there is no solution and no hope for our salvation. The Lord is about to intervene and from the descendents of David a new kingdom will begin. This Advent we await the coming of the same Saviour who was brought forth from the ‘woman’ the prophet foretold.
Tues. … The words of the prophet Micah were an invitation of hope in the days of King Hezekiah. In this 4th Week of Advent we are invited to exercise ‘Hope’ for the coming of our Saviour; we celebrate the ‘Peace’ we will find in his presence; and with great ‘Joy’ we will spread the ‘Good News’. The coming of his kingdom will be the arrival of ‘new and gratuitous Love’ in our hearts.
Wed. … In the second reading, Paul tells us in his letter to the Hebrews how Christ, in an act of total self-sacrifice stated, “Here I come to do your will”. Let us this Advent follow the example given to by Christ and offer ourselves together with the ‘Gifts’ on the altar as a living sacrifice to God that we may be transformed by the Holy Spirit into his loving servants, to always do his will.
Thur. … In your quiet place, reflect on the many times God has intervened in your life and on your responses to his calling.
Frid. … Mary teaches us by her actions that that the graces of God have to be received with our full and free co-operation. We hear the Word of God, and in it, ‘His’ will and plan for humankind. Do we put God’s will into practice in our lives or does his word fall on deaf ears?
Sat. … As Advent draws to a close, let us ‘set out’ to discover others around us who have been blessed by the Lord, and to learn from their wonderful experiences. Let us too share with others our Joy and Love as ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’ as we await the ‘Coming of our Lord”.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Almighty God and Father, as Advent draws to a close we pray that Christ will truly come into our lives and into our hearts. May we always be guided by our Lord’s saving example of self-sacrifice to always do Your will. May we live by the Blessed Virgin Mary’s example to always fully co-operate in Your plan. May our Saviour lead us through His suffering and His death to the glory of His Resurrection into a new life in Your kingdom.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.