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The Church is observing the last Sunday of Advent. In only seven days, the Church will joyfully and in great faith celebrate Christmas, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.
The Church chooses for the first reading on this weekend a passage from the Book of Isaiah. Central in the reading is King Ahaz of the southern Hebrew kingdom of Judah, who reigned in the last third of the eighth century before Christ. His reign is not remembered as having been particularly distinguished. He was no great leader.
The definition of a good king for Isaiah was that the monarch genuinely should lead the people to God by inspiring them to follow their covenant with him. Regardless of any other duty, confirming the covenant and requiring submission to its terms were the essential responsibilities of the kings. Nothing else ultimately mattered.
Although Ahaz was not spectacular in his role, God still used him as an instrument to bring the people back to fidelity to the covenant. Ahaz served God’s purpose to save the people from their own sins by fathering a son. When the king’s spouse, a young woman, conceived, Isaiah saw in the event a sign of God’s caring for the people. What the lackluster Ahaz could not accomplish would be achieved by his son.
Thus, the coming of the new prince was a cause for rejoicing.
As its second reading on this weekend, the Church selects a section from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. No Christian today would think of challenging Paul’s status as an Apostle. When Paul was alive, however, his credentials were hardly so universally acknowledged. He himself wrote of usurpers who vested themselves with the cloak of being Apostles, and who led the faithful astray.
Here Paul stresses that he indeed is an Apostle, because the Lord called him.
St. Matthew’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. This reading recalls the miraculous conception of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God and the son of the Virgin Mary. He entered human history directly as a result of God’s love for humanity, fulfilling God’s promise to give the fullness of life to the people who were faithful.
The Incarnation, as the Church’s tradition calls the mystery of the Son of God’s conception as a human, is beyond human comprehension. Not even Joseph, holy as he was, could understand it. God’s ways are not our ways.
Only one week remains in Advent, and given the frenzy usually connected with preparing for Christmas in our society, these remaining days of Advent are apt to be quite busy.
Nevertheless, one week will be enough for any of us to use the opportunity of Advent to cleanse ourselves of attachments to sin and instead make our souls worthy of receiving the Lord. Christmas can be deeply personal for us, for if we have made ourselves worthy, Jesus will come to us personally on this great feast.
The Church encourages us, therefore, to accept its Advent invitation to come to God. If we have conscientiously observed Advent, then the Church urges us to continue doing so until Christmas. If we have allowed Advent to slip past us, the Church calls us to use the time left.
God wants us to love him as he loves us. Again and again, God has reached out to people to empower them in coming in him. He sent a son to Ahaz, that his chosen people might have a good king. He sent Jesus to us. Jesus sent us the Apostles. He sent Paul.
God loves us so much. He never leaves alone or without guidance. He provides for us in ways we cannot understand. Even in one week, we can reach out to God, if we wish. Time remains. †