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Fourth Sunday – Year C – Advent
Readings: Mic 5:1-4a; Heb 10:5-10; Lk 1:39-45.
Reading 1 (Mic 5:1-4a):
Thus says the LORD:
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
and the rest of his kindred shall return
to the children of Israel.
He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the LORD,
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
and they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.
Reading 2 (Heb 10:5-10):
Brothers and sisters:
When Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.'”
First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.”
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated
through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Gospel (Lk 1:39-45):
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Tien M. Dinh, O.P.
I. THEME: God loves the humble, the little and the poor.
People often love what is grandiose, magnificent and majestic. If people are chosen a place to be born, a majority of them shall choose the royal palace where they shall have all means to be happy. In the mystery of Incarnation, God acted in an opposing way with human beings. He chose for His son a lowly and humble parents, Joseph and Mary, and a small and unknown town, Bethlehem-Ephrathah for His son to be born. This isn’t the first time God acts as such; many times in both the Old and New Testament history, God chose this way. For examples: God chose Jacob, the young, instead of Esau, the elder, to be one of the Israelites’ forefathers. He chose Joseph, the youngest, instead of his brothers, to save his family in Egypt when there was a famine in Israel. He chose David, the young and slender, instead of his old and strong brothers, to be the king of Israel.
Today readings emphasize God’s way: If people want to receive the Messiah, they must be humble, trusted and obedient. Don’t find him in magnificent and majestic places, but in the simple and poor places. In the first reading, the prophet Micah foretold about 800 years before the Messiah’s coming that he shall be born in a smallest town of Judah, in a smallest clan Ephratha; but he exists from the beginning and shall use God’s power to bring salvation to all people and liberate all tribes of Israel. In the second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews certified that God pleases with the one who obeys and does His will more than thousands of offerings of fat lambs. In the Gospel, God chose Mary, a simple and unknown lady to become the Messiah’s mother in the midst of countless beautiful and noble ladies of the whole Israel. The reason for God’s choice is because Mary is humble, simple, charitable and specially she is always looking for God’s will to do.
1/ Reading I: But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.
1.1/ God love what is small and poor: If a worldly father chooses a place for his son to be born, he shall certainly choose Jerusalem, a royal palace and well-known center. In opposition, God chose for His son to be born in Bethlehem, the smallest town of Judah, about 30 miles to the south of Jerusalem. This place is also King David’s birthplace. God also chose David, the youngest son in Jesse’s family to be the successor of Saul, the first king of Israel. When David became a king, he moved his living quarter to Jerusalem.
Moreover, God also chose the smallest clan of Judah, Ephratha, for His son to be incarnated, as the prophet Micah foretold: “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.” This prophecy is very important because it was used by the scribes to answer the three oriental wise men’s question to King Herode: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Mt 2:2).
1.2/ The Messiah’s identity: Like Daniel’s vision (Dan 7:13-14) which happens later, the prophet Micah revealed three important characters of the Messiah:
(1) Origin: Though the Messiah is born in time, but his “origin is from of old, from ancient times.” According to Daniel, though he has the image of the “son of man;” but coming “on the clouds of heaven” (Dan 7:13).
(2) Power: Though he is in the form of man, but has God’s power, “He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, his God.” According to Daniel, “When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him” (Dan 7:13-14).
(3) Dominion and reign: Not like worldly kingdom, his dominion shall be peaceful, prosperous and remain to eternity, “his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth;he shall be peace.” According to Daniel, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:14).
2/ Reading II: “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”
2.1/ Obedience is more important than offerings: In the Old Testament, God commands the Israelites to offer sacrifices to compensate for their sins against God and others; but gradually, the Israelites paid too much attention to offerings and forgot about repentance, love and justice. Many prophets warned them about these and called them to pay attention to love and justice. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews also followed this direction when he mentioned about the value of Christ’s offering. He wanted to emphasize two main points:
(1) The purpose of a human body: “For this reason, when he came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.” Deeds are necessary to express one’s faith in God. Christ was given a human body by God to do God’s will and to teach people. He used his mouth to proclaim the Good News, to teach and to console people; his hands to heal all kinds of sickness; his feet to travel place to place to meet people, etc. Finally, he used his body to endure sufferings and to die for people.
(2) The virtue of obedience: ”Holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.'” These are words from Psalm 40:6-9 and is the obvious truth because all things in this world belong to God. He doesn’t have nose to smell or mouth and tongue to taste human offerings. What delight Him are people’s reverence and doing His will.
2.2/ Christ’s offering exceeds all the Old Testament’s offerings.
(1) The Old Testament’s offerings: “First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.” First of all, the blood of animals must be poured out for human beings isn’t voluntary, but they are killed by people. Secondly, the blood of animals isn’t enough to forgive sins, especially the deliberated sins; and it must be repeated many times. Lastly, it has no power to sanctify men or to make them better.
(2) Christ’s offering: “Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Christ’s blood is the blood of God’s son; he voluntarily died for human beings. He only needs to pour our his blood one time and it has power to forgive all human sins. From that time on, Christ ended the Old Testament’s sacrifices and replaced them with his offering in the Mass. This is proved by history because the Jerusalem temple was completely destroyed in 70 A.D. From that time to now, the Israelites have no place to offer their sacrifices. Lastly, not only Christ’s blood forgives all sins but also has power to sanctify and to help people to become holy by the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist’s grace.
3/ Gospel: ” Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
3.1/ Mary visited Elisabeth, her cousin: St. Luke reported, “During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” Not only God chose a poor and simple place for His son to be born, He also chose for him a simple and humble mother who always wants to do His will and to love others. The event of Visitation showed many Mary’s marked virtues.
According to tradition, Ein Karim is the place of Zachariah and Elisabeth’s house and in the middle between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Usually, the lower must visit the higher, or the receiver of the gift to the giver; but Mary chose to visit Elisabeth and to help her, not to wait for her to visit, eventhough Mary knew that she was carrying the Messiah, the son of the Most High in her womb. When a higher chooses to visit the lower, that person shows her humility and true love to care for her lover. Mary brings joy and many God’s graces for Elisabeth and her son through this visitation.
3.2/ Elisabeth praised Mary.
(1) The Holy Spirit descended on John when he is still in his mother’s womb: St. Luke reported a strange fact, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit.”
A mother can recognize an unusual reaction of her son, even he is still in the womb. When John Baptist, the representative of the Old Covenant, recognized the Messiah’s visitation, he leaped with joy; eventhough both of them were still in their mother’s wombs.
(2) Elisabeth praised Mary with a loud voice: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Elisabeth proclaimed many truths about Mary: First, Mary is blessed by God more than any woman; no woman in the world is blessed than Mary. She also was inspired by the Holy Spirit to proclaim that Mary is the Mother of God. This title was officially proclaimed by the Church 430 years later in the Council of Ephesus. Secondly, John Baptist who was in Elisabeth’s womb was also blessed because God remembered and visited His people. When God visits, He brings salvation to people. Lastly, Elisabeth clearly declared the reason of all blessing: it is because Mary believed what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled. Faith is the reason for people to be blessed and to become great before God, not because of people’s worthiness or any of their works.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– To look for God, we shall not find Him in magnificent or majesty places; but shall find Him in small and poor places as Bethlehem of Judah.
– God doesn’t concern about our success or great works which we accomplished; but He delights with our humility, trust, obedience in doing His will.
– Imitating our blessed Mary, we should love, concern and humbly care for others. All these virtues shall help us to welcome God, and He shall give us all necessary graces for our life.