Sunday, December 18, 2011


With this fourth Sunday we have come almost to the climax of the Advent season. Guided by the liturgical readings, we have prepared ourselves to celebrate the approaching feast of the Lord’s birth, to relive once again that event which has defined the history of our redemption, while awaiting the fulfillment of the Savior’s work when He comes again in glory. At the start of this season of watchful hope we have been enjoined by the Lord himself to keep watch and be prepared (the First Sunday) for His coming; as we progressed we are reminded by the words of the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths, on which is best done through repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Second Sunday). Finally, last Sunday (the Third of Advent) we see the same John, the forerunner of the promised Messiah, point out to the Christ himself, indicating Him who is already among us, who by the hardness of their hearts men were incapable of recognizing. This progressive movement ends with our eyes finally resting on the mystery that lies at the very heart of this season: the mystery of the Incarnation; the mystery announced from the ages through the prophets, which announced the fulfillment of God’s promise to dwell definitively with His people, to be with them. The Incarnation is God-with-us, God living among us, God who has pitched his tent among us: Emmanuel.

The First reading presents the figure of David, and his plans to built the temple, which would give glory to the God of Israel. This edifice, once built, would be the symbol of God’s presence with his people, his dwelling place among them. Encouraged by the prophet Nathan, he is bent on pursuing his plan. But the Lord, who thwarts the plans of men, and who transforms these very plans in wonderful and unexpected ways with His wisdom and love, makes it known to David that He himself would build His dwelling among men, and that this would be realized through David himself. The Lord, however, would not be counting on whatever plans David might have, nor in the skill of Israel’s best artisans; this dwelling would be realized through David’s seed, through his progeny: “I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to me”. A historical interpretation of this would have us looking at Solomon, his successor on the throne, and who in fact fulfilled this project of his of building the Temple; Solomon who was blessed and renowned for his wisdom, eminent among the attributes of God himself, exhibited by the sons of God. But as time progressed, and as man drew near to the fullness of time, a much more profound meaning to this promise was understood; man began to see that this referred to the plan of God which was to be revealed in time, one which the Apostle Paul refers to in his letter to the Romans (Second Reading): “the revelation of a mystery kept secret for long ages, but now manifested through the prophetic writings, and according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith”.

This plan—the building up of this dwelling place, tangible sign of God’s presence among us—is fulfilled in the Incarnation. More than just a concept, it is an event: and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. This building, planned by David, was realized in a way that went beyond his wildest dreams: a dwelling that was not only meant to symbolize God’s presence, but God himself IN THE REALITY OF THE FLESH, God Himself assuming our humanity. In the Incarnation, God had built a Temple that would never be destroyed, one that would never be corrupted, not even by death. In Jesus of Nazareth, we see glory as of the only Son of the Father (cfr. Jn 1:14).

This is the central mystery—not merely of the Christmas season, but of our Faith, of our redemption, one that was brought about by the humble “yes” of the Virgin. This is what the Gospel episode from Luke tells us this Sunday, that of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, which ends with these words that are all too familiar to us: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word”.

Reflecting on what the liturgy has prepared for our consideration today, I could not help but be amazed at God’s kindness and generosity, in His goodness and in His wisdom; the Lord who allows man to play a part in the fulfillment of His wonderful works. Within the wonder of the Incarnation, manifestation of God’s omnipotence and love, we are also witnesses to the willingness of David to cooperate with providence; we see the humility with which Mary took a decisive part in the history of salvation. Their example and their life shows us that in realizing His saving plan He also count on the help and generosity of ordinary men and women, a collaboration that makes them shine with greatness. This, for our part, shows that miracles do happen, not necessarily when we decide to do things for God, but precisely when we allow God to great things in us and through us.  

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