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December 20th – Advent
Readings: Isa 7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38.
Reading 1 (Isa 7:10-14):
The LORD spoke to Ahaz:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary men,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.
Gospel (Lk 1:26-38):
In the sixth month,
the angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Salvation comes from God.
The history of the Old Testament reported many times that when people put their complete trust in God and did His will, they were protected and blessed by Him; in opposition, when people didn’t put their trust in God, but trust in themselves or worldly power, they were failed and cursed.
Today readings show us these two opposite reactions. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah advised king Ahaz that he must put his trust in God’s power and might, and didn’t need to do anything, because God Himself will protect Judah kingdom. The king didn’t listen, he sent his messengers to ask for Assyrian protection. The results of his disobedient act are they lost their country and all, from the king to people, were on exile. However, God still controls all worldly powers and His promise continues to be fulfilled. In the Gospel, the promise to give the Messiah to people was fulfilled. The archangel Gabriel announced to Mary about the conception and the birthday of Jesus, the Messiah. Not like king Ahaz’s hardness and disobedience, the Blessed Mary completely trust in God’s power and providence and said to the angel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” The result of Mary’s obedience is that God’s salvation is spread to all people.
1/ Reading I: “Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
1.1/ The historical environment: To understand the first reading, we need to read Isaiah 7:1-9 in order to understand the Israel’s environment at that time: The country was separated into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom was also called Israel, its capital was Samaria; the southern kingdom was also called Judah, its capital was Jerusalem. The northern kingdom united with Syria to become Syro-Ephraimite to invade the southern kingdom. To fight against this union, king Ahaz sent his messengers to ask Syria for help, though the prophet Isaiah advised the king not to do so. The Judah’s king was ready to give his offerings to become Assyrian vassal. The king worried more because he had no child to succeed him because his only son was already burned for the Moloch god (2 Kgs 16:3).
1.2/ God’s will: When Isaiah heard that king Ahaz disobeyed God’s commandment, the prophet came and told him God’s will a second time: “Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”” The truth is king Ahaz no longer trusted in God, the king worshipped foreign gods and trusted in human power.
The prophet said to him: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel in Hebrew means “God is with us,” the symbolic name for the child whom king Ahaz’s new wife was about to give birth to. The prophet Isaiah emphasized that this child will succeed him, not by the king’s intercession, but completely by God’s will.
Assyria invaded and attacked Judah (Isa 8:5-8); king’s Ahaz’s request became the cause for Assyria’s king to invade and to destroy Judah. However, what God has promised continued to be fulfilled. David’s lineage and Jerusalem still remained after the exile and the promise about the Messiah shall come from David’s lineage continued to be fulfilled. This clearly shows people that God’s will exceed all human calculation and capacity, and salvation only comes from Him.
2/ Gospel: The promise to give the Messiah was fulfilled.
More than 500 years after the exile through fourteen generations of David’s lineage, the promise to give the Messiah was achieved in the following environment.
2.1/ The angel Gabriel announced the good new to the Blessed Virgin Mary: The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
2.2/ The reaction of the Blessed Mary: Due to her vow of virginity to God, Mary said to the angel: “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” Her vow of virginity pleased God because He wanted His Son to be incarnated in such a pure womb. Moreover, the prophet Isaiah also foretold about this virgin (parthenos, Isa 7:14).
The Blessed Mary, as many of us, questioned the angel according to human understanding: How can one conceive and give birth still be a virgin? We forgot that God can do all things, He can make a people to give birth and to be a virgin. The angel explained to Mary God’s way: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
After listened to the angel’s explanation, Mary said to him, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must be wise and clear to recognize God’s power and might, at the same time, we must be humble to recognize our lowliness and weakness as the Blessed Virgin Mary.
– We should always obey and do God’s will, though we aren’t always to fathom His will.
– One thing we should keep in mind: To God, everything is possible. We should never limit God in our human limit – what is impossible to us, is also impossible to God.