Fourth Sunday in Advent
Lectionary: 12 (NAB Translation)
Welcome to the Sunday Says podcast for December 20, 2015, the fourth Sunday of Advent. Thank you for joining us as we break open the Word of God to prepare our hearts and minds for this Sunday’s Mass. This week’s readings take us back to Old Testament prophecies that point to a Messiah coming from Bethlehem followed by the Epistle to the Hebrews where we are introduced to the theology of Christ’s sacrifice. Finally in the Gospel of Luke we hear the familiar story of the Visitation, when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth. As always we are using the Jerusalem translation for copyright purpose.
Our first reading is from the book of Micah in the Old Testament. Micah was a prophet in the southern kingdom of Judah who was active in 8th Century B.C. (during the same period of time as Isaiah). Micah was from the countryside and much of his preaching focused on the criticism of Judah’s leaders who had betrayed their responsibility. In this passage for Advent, Micah proclaims that a Messiah will come from the humble area of Bethlehem-Ephrathah, who will rule as a shepherd of his people, who will “feed his flock” and “be peace.” The Blessed Virgin Mary is also referenced in this passage as “she who is to give birth.” The nativity story in the gospel of Matthew is seen as the fulfillment of this prophecy.
The response for the responsorial Psalm is, “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” This Psalm clearly looks forward to the coming Messiah in verse 3 when it says calls on the Shepherd to stir up His power and come to save us.
This week’s second reading is from Epistle to the Hebrews. The Epistle to the Hebrews contains mature theological teaching and focuses on Jesus’ eternal priesthood and sacrifice. The author of this letter makes the point that because Jewish sacrifices had to be repeated, they were ultimately not effective. Rather than sacrificing animals, Jesus gave His very own life for love of us and in obedience to God. Jesus understood that the Old Law with its rituals and sacrifices could not accomplish salvation. In love for His father, Jesus makes an eternal sacrifice, commemorated in the Eucharist, where He offers Himself up, once and for all. This offering of Himself as both Priest and Victim can also be seen as personal example that others can follow.
In this amazing passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, we see Mary’s generous nature as she goes off to aid her cousin Elizabeth. Without any selfish concerns Mary goes quickly and as soon as Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, we are told that the child John the Baptist leapt in her womb. It is at this point that the prophecy from Luke 1:15 is fulfilled that said, “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Elizabeth, too, inspired by the Holy Spirit, proclaims Mary to be the “mother of my Lord.” In one succinct passage we are given a preview of evangelization as Mary in essence brings Christ to Elizabeth and to John the Baptist who in turn will prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. We also see the joy of faith, and hope in the Lord who fulfills His promises and comes to us this Christmas as our own Savior.
Gospel Meditation from Bishop Vásquez
“I come to do your will.” This was Jesus’ mission statement. By Mary’s obedience to God’s will, the Divine Word becomes man. When we do God’s will, God’s presence is made manifest in us. Do we take time to listen to and cooperate with God’s will or are we too focused on our own will? What is God asking of you today and this week?