December 18, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Advent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading for Mass this weekend is from the Second Book of Samuel. Once the two Books of Samuel were a single volume. Translations and editions over the centuries divided this one volume into two.

David is the principal figure in these books. The ancient Hebrews looked upon David as much more than a king. Beyond all else, he was God’s chosen representative, given the kingship so that laws and circumstances would provide an atmosphere in which the people more fervently would follow God and be loyal to the covenant.

For this weekend’s second reading, the Church offers us a passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

Scholars unanimously say that Paul of Tarsus indeed authored this epistle, and that it was his theological masterpiece.

As indicated by its title, Paul sent this epistle to the faithful of the Church in Rome. In the first century, Rome was the center of the Mediterranean world in every respect—political, economic and cultural. It was also the largest city in the Roman Empire. Not surprisingly, Rome, the great imperial capital, had within its borders a great array of ideas and religions, Christianity among them.

In this weekend’s reading, as often elsewhere, Paul asserts his vocation as an Apostle. His vocation from God came so that “all the Gentiles” might believe in, and obey, God, “who alone is wise” (Rom 16:26-27).

For the final reading this weekend, the Church proclaims a beautiful passage from the infancy narrative of St. Luke’s Gospel. It is the story of the annunciation, the event when the angel Gabriel came into the presence of Mary, a young Jewish woman in Nazareth in Galilee, to inform her that she would be the mother of the long-awaited Redeemer.

The reading abounds with meaning. Luke makes clear that Mary was a virgin, and that the conception of the Redeemer would not be the result of any human relationship. Behind this fact is the reality that God, as Creator and the provider of order to the universe, can do anything. He is almighty. The Redeemer will be the Son of God. He will be David’s successor.

The Redeemer’s coming will fulfill God’s promises, spoken by the prophets all through the ages, to bring life and salvation to the people. The birth of this Redeemer will be the ultimate fulfillment of the ancient covenant.

Vital to the message of the story is Mary’s response. “I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say” (Lk 1:38).

Reflection

In each of these readings drawn from the Scriptures, the Church makes a vital point. God reaches out to us. This outreach is not vague, pointed only to a few, or impossible to see. It came in through people with whom we can relate—David, Paul and Jesus—so that we all may comprehend.

This outreach has critical implications for us in our own inadequacy and limitations. God is almighty, but his supreme power over all creation is not the most consoling point here. Rather, the most reassuring factor is that God loves us. He continually dispatched messengers such as David, Paul and Jesus, to rescue us from ourselves and to guide us to peace in our hearts and life in eternity. He sent us Mary in her faithfulness.

The Church approaches Christmas in its solid conviction of God’s love. We are not helpless and doomed. God reaches out to us.

Now, each of us must respond. Do we accept God? Do we love God? Or, do we reject God? It is that simple. †

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