Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fourth Sunday in Advent

December 18, 2011
2 Samuel 7:1-5; 8-16; Psalm 89; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

          In the 2nd Book of Samuel, we read of King David sitting in his comfort and splendor in his finely appointed palace that was just built to honor him. He subdued his neighboring enemies and built Israel into a kingdom that finally takes its place among nations. The new sturdy home was meant to give him lasting security where he can recline without worry because of his many diplomatic and military accomplishments. Instead of taking pleasure in his new abode, he thinks about the discomfort God must experience for being housed within a flimsy tent.

          David's lament shows his compassion for God. He realizes that the comforts of this world are fleeting and that the transitory aspects of life cannot bring anyone ultimate happiness and satisfaction. He is moved to build a better, more sturdy home for God because God is the cause of his success.

          Somehow, when we experience abundance, we instinctively want to share our good fortune with others who have less than we do. We cannot be content with excesses when others go without. Resting content won't do for us. Fortunately, it pangs our conscience and we make amends to alleviate the plight of others. We become more sensitive to our responsibility and influence upon the lives of others.

          David wants to set things right with his relationship to God and since he has power and influence, he merely decides what he will do for the other - without even asking. Everyone needs freedom to accept generosity or to give input to what one wants. Too often, those who are good and powerful think they know what a less fortunate person wants and needs and just provides it for them. A greater injustice is perpetuated when one's free will is further disrespected.

          God turns the table on David. God is not asking for a better residence; David merely wants something better for him. God tells David to enjoy what God has given him because it is through David's lineage that the Messiah will come. God will exalt David's house and will establish it as one that will withstand the challenges over time. David has to realize that this favor is not brought about through his accomplishments, but because God has chosen to do it. The power David has was given to him by God.

          We then hear of Luke's Gospel when Mary, the wife of Joseph, has been visited by the angel Gabriel to tell her that, though a virgin, she will bear a son through the power of the Holy Spirit. The plan formed long ago by God is being realized. Joseph comes from the line of David. Mary's son will be brought up within that Davidic tradition. The house of David will continue to remain strong and through it the world's salvation will come.

          In each day leading up to the birth of Jesus, we read Luke's accounts. The pace of the story will speed up and is focused on wondrous events of the birth. It is as if we are experiencing the labor as we approach the day.

          Positioning the Lucan story with 2nd Samuel paints a perspective for us. It shows us God has always been at work for our salvation. The stories in the Bible are ones that shows God's intimate care and concern for our well-being. It reveals a great love story - the love God has for us. It is right for us to keep a long-term perspective on short-term events and to know that even though we might not detect God's presence, it is there to shape events through our free will.

          God has always been faithful and will always be. As we realize this, we can let go of some of our fears and anxieties because we can rely upon God's steadfast concern. It helps us place some of our turmoil in proper perspective. Fundamentally, all of us want to know if God cares for us and can identify with our feelings. We want intimate, first-hand knowledge of that. This is why it is fascinating to watch this week unfold because God gently reaches into the deep recesses of our lives and builds his home among us. Why? God desires to know and experience exactly what we are feeling so we can tell God all about our chaos. God's abiding love will transform our anxieties because God does not want us to hold onto it. Tell God everything about what you feel and then let God be generous to you this week.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  In the Book of Judges, an angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah's wife to tell her that though she is barren, she will conceive and bear a son. She is to raise him to refrain from wine, drink, and unclean foods. The boy is to consecrated to God and is to be called Samuel. In Isaiah, Lord spoke to Ahaz and suggested that he ask for a sign, but Ahaz would not tempt the Lord. Isaiah declared the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son who is to be called Emmanuel.

In the Song of Songs, the lover comes springing across the mountains leaping across the hills. She cries out, "Let me see you, let me hear your voice." In 1 Samuel, Hannah brings Samuel to the Temple to present him to the Lord. An elderly woman greets them and says that she has stood by Hannah and has prayed for the boy. Hannah sings her song of praise.

In Malachi, the Lord speaks through the prophet to tell them he is sending a messenger to prepare the way before him. He will send Elijah the prophet before the day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. In 2 Samuel, the Lord promises that the lineage of David will be made strong and will endure forever.

Gospel: Events leading up to the nativity story are told this week. We begin with the priest Zechariah and his barren wife, Elizabeth. Zechariah is serving his priestly duty while an angel visits him to announce that his wife will bear a son. Since he doubts Gabriel, he is struck dumb until the boy is born. Six months later, Gabriel visits Mary to announce God's plan that she is to become the mother of a son through the Holy Spirit's intervention. She gives her assent.

Mary then travels to visit Elizabeth who is in her final months of pregnancy. When she enters Zechariah's house, Elizabeth's son jumps in her womb since he recognizes the specialness of the child. Mary' sings her song of praise.

Elizabeth delivers her son. At his circumcision when it is time to name the boy, neighbors were expecting the name Zechariah to be given him, but Zechariah declares, "His name is John." His mouth was opened and his tongue was freed and he spoke in blessing of God and sings his canticle, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people to set them free."

Saints of the Week

Saints are not celebrated during the octave leading up to Christmas.

December 17 - O wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge.

December 18 - O leader of the house of Israel, give of the law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power.

December 19 - O root of Jesse's stem, sign of God's love for all the people: come to save us without delay!

December 20 - O key of David, opening the gates of God's eternal kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness.

December 21 - O radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22 - O King of all nations and keystone of the church: come and save us, whom you formed from the dust.

December 23 - O Emmanuel, our king and giver of the Law: come to save us, Lord our God.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Dec 18, 1594. At Florence, the apparition of St Ignatius to St Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi.
·         Dec 19, 1593. At Rome, Fr. Robert Bellarmine was appointed rector of the Roman College.
·         Dec 20, 1815. A ukase of Alexander I was published banishing the Society of Jesus from St Petersburg and Moscow on the pretext that they were troubling the Russian Church.
·         Dec 21, 1577. In Rome, Fr. Juan de Polanco, secretary to the Society and very dear to Ignatius, died.
·         Dec 22, 1649. At Cork, Fr. David Glawey, a missionary in the Inner and Lower Hebrides, Islay, Oronsay, Colonsay, and Arran, died.
·         Dec 23, 1549. Francis Xavier was appointed provincial of the newly-erected Indian Province.
·         Dec 24, 1587. Fr. Claude Matthe died at Ancona. He was a Frenchman of humble birth, highly esteemed by King Henry III and the Duke of Guise. He foretold that Fr. Acquaviva would be General and hold that office for a long period.