Sunday Sermon for December 21, 2014, The Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B
Readings: 2Sam 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Rom 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38
In the second reading today St. Paul gives glory to God, but the way he does it is quite interesting. The glory is give to Him Who can strengthen you according to the Gospel, the proclamation of Jesus, the mystery kept secret for long ages and now manifested in order to bring about the obedience of faith. We know from St. Paul’s letter of the Ephesians that the mystery is that the gentiles are now coheirs with the Jews and members of the same body.
Now we have greater understanding of why he is glorifying God. Not only are the Jews called to obedience of faith, but now all people are called to this same obedience because they have heard the message of the Gospel and believed. Jesus was obedient and He has provided the grace for each of us to be obedient to the will of God as well.
We must first take note that the obedience to which St. Paul is calling us is an obedience of faith. We have all become obedient to many different things, although we might not think of them as obedience. For instance, the laws of math, science, spelling, social etiquette and such things as that. If someone misspelled a word, we would recognize the word used is not conformed to the rules of spelling we have been taught.
Tragically, these days there is not much obedience to anything or anyone, but for those with faith, we are being asked to live according to the obedience required by that faith. In this case it is not just a matter of stating that we believe in the existence of God, but this obedience acknowledges that God has the right to reveal Himself and His holy will and ask that we conform ourselves to what He has chosen to reveal.
In the first reading we hear about David who certainly had great faith in God, so much so that he wanted to build a Temple for the Lord. But God spoke to Nathan the prophet and told David that he was not to build the house of God but, in reward for his desire, God would establish a house for David. For David to accept it was necessary for him to put his faith into practice. I do not suspect that he would have listened to just anyone who claimed to be hearing something from God, but Nathan was proven and trusted. Still, to think that God would speak to you through a particular individual requires a great amount of faith.
In the Gospel reading today we see the fulfillment of the promises God made to David. A Son of David Who will be seated on the throne forever and will be the Temple of the Lord. But we also see another act of faith that was necessary in the person of the Virgin Mary. She had to believe that God would become incarnate in her womb. All the promises made to Israel, and those made to David in particular, will be fulfilled through her.
Like David before her, she would have to accept without understanding fully what this meant or how it would happen. She knew that God was all powerful and that He would do things any way that He chose, but she still had to believe that He had chosen her specifically for this task.
You and I have also been chosen by God. We are probably not being asked to do something great like David or our Lady, but the promises made to us are the same as those given to them. We are promised eternal life with God in reward for our obedience to His will during our time on earth. While we may not be asked to be the Mother of God, we are being asked to believe that Mary is the Mother of God and Jesus, Who was born through her, is the second Person of the Holy Trinity and the Redeemer of the World.
More than just accepting these truths as a matter of faith, we are also being asked to live our lives in conformity with these truths. We profess our faith in the Lord Jesus and we believe in everything He taught and we accept everything that He promised. Being baptized into Jesus, we have the grace to live as the children of God. This is the mystery St. Paul speaks of: we are not just the people of God, but as members of Jesus we are sons and daughters of God.
So, as St. Paul says, we have the strength provided by God, we have the Gospel, we have the proclamation of Jesus, and we are living the mystery hidden from ages past. What is required of us in response to these graces? The obedience of faith.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.