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Advent Weekdays - 3: Dec 17-22 Homilies

Advent Weekdays: Dec 17-22, 2012

17 December, 2012. Third Week of Advent – Monday

Top of FormBottom of FormOf David’s Royal Blood

Matthew poses some key questions about Jesus: Where has he come from? What is he here for? And ultimately, who is he, in relation to God and to mankind? His account opens with the genealogy, an ingenious reconstruction, based on a close reading of the Old Testament, to situate Jesus four-square at the heart of Israel’s lineage. That it is an artistic, literary construct rather than a soberly factual genealogy, is strongly hinted by dividing the list neatly into three sets of fourteen generations – one set, from the Founding Father (Abraham) to the heights of royal splendour (David, a man after God’s heart); then one from the royal heights to the bitter depths of the Babylonian Captivity; finally, and this time with less guidance from the Old Testament, tracing his lineage from the Captivity down to Joseph, “the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.”

While the mainline genealogy is counted from father to son, on the way, Matthew mentions some surprising women who were unexpectedly incorporated into the Messiah’s lineage: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and “the wife of Uriah” (Bathsheba) – all of whom prepare the reader for the ultimate surprise: Joseph is not really Jesus’ father at all, since Mary has conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. Where has he come from, then? Ultimately, and miraculously, from God; though also from Abraham and David, by indirect family links. Later, Matthew will answer his own other significant questions: What is he here for? And who is he? with one single phrase: Jesus is Emmanuel or “God with us.”

18 December, 2012. Third Week of Advent – Tuesday
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An Ongoing Mission

God willed that His own eternal Son would be the Saviour of the entire human race. In the lavish language of Jeremiah, we hear about him as the “righteous Branch will be raised up from David’s descendants, and that through him his people will be saved and live in safety. In the Gospel, Jesus is described as the one who “will save his people from their sins. ” To save us is why he came! In order to do so, although he was God from eternity, he elected to take on our humanity, fully and in the flesh, by being born of a mother!

That was Mary’s role and mission: to be the mother who served God’s saving plan. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to her role. The angel Gabriel salutes her as ?full of grace? – totally ready for her great mission in life.

As God prepared Mary for her role and mission, so are we too prepared for what is asked of us. This principle — that God prepares those whom He chooses for their role and mission — is true for everyone who is prepared to serve God. We are chosen and called to holiness. God has prepared us for works of service and of live; by giving us Jesus to be our Lord and guide, by calling us to the saving waters of Baptism, by giving us the support of the Church and its Sacraments, and by strengthening us to cooperate with His saving will.

19 December, 2012. Third Week of Advent – WednesdayTop of Form

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 Glorious Things In Store 

(Manoah’s wife will conceive Samson, to be dedicated to God all his life.)

There are many interesting parallels in the bible stories about God granting the gift of children to those who longed for them. After years of waiting, Abraham and Sarah were blessed with Isaac, Manoah and his wife were blessed with Samson, and – in today’s Gospel, Zechariah and Elizabeth were blessed with the great “fore-runner”, John the Baptist.

Luke has annunciation stories to both Zechariah and Mary, in parallel yet distinctive accounts. Each is startled at the angel’s appearance. Gabriel instructs each not to be afraid. Each is promised a child and given a hint of his or her child’s future greatness.

Luke is careful to locate events in both time and place. After the message to Zechariah in Jerusalem that he and Elizabeth would have a son the mute priest, still not quite believing the news, returns to his home. Elizabeth has more faith and rejoices in her pregnancy, while staying secluded for the first five months. Then, in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the fuller meaning of what God is doing is made clear to her.

Her young relative, Mary of Nazareth comes to her to be with her for a time, and share the news of her own blessed pregnancy – and to lift up joyful praise to God, who is coming to visit his people with saving grace.

20 December, 2012. Third Week of Advent – ThursdayTop of Form
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Wonderful News

The Annunciation story is full of splendid promise, radiant with a bright future. God’s messenger tells of a coming Saviour: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High… He will reign forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Setting these lines alongside all the other echoes of joy in Luke’s opening chapters, and we have the happy prospect of a God who wants every human being to be saved – to have a share in God’s own endless fullness of life.

Perhaps the fifth century saint Caesarius of Arles was thinking of today’s joyful Scriptures when he wrote that “God never deserts anyone, unless He is first deserted by that one. For even if one has committed grievous sins once, twice, and a third time, God still looks for him, so that he may be converted and live.”

21 December, 2012. Third Week of Advent – FridayTop of Form
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Sharing the Joy

What a fascinating overlap there is between the two biblical passages for today. The Song of Songs pours out some of the lyrical love-poetry written by King Solomon for his young bride from Egypt, describing the overflowing emotions of love that she feels for him, and he for her, at the time of their nuptials. St. Luke, on the other hand, portrays the deep spiritual friendship that bonds Mary with Elizabeth, as they ponder how God has blessed both of them, and through them, so many others who would come to a fuller life, under the influence of John the Baptist and of Jesus.

Sharing faith is not always easy. An evangelistic writer said recently: “When I tell people about my experience of joy since becoming a Christian, they sometimes say, ‘all this Jesus stuff is just a crutch for weak people. ‘ Do you know what I think? If Jesus is a crutch, then give me two!” But we need to share what we have felt, and it can benefit both ourselves and those with whom we share our spiritual experience.

Mary and Elizabeth both felt the saving grace of God pouring over their lives – and were not afraid to say so. Many of us were raised on the principle that ‘God helps those who help themselves’ and that displays of need are out of place in the pursuit of holiness. Maybe we need to learn again what Elizabeth says so clearly: that God is a gracious God, and it is a blessed thing to believe in that graciousness.

22 December, 2012. Third Week of Advent– SaturdayTop of Form
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A Dedicated Life

Having longed for a son, and being finally blessed with the boy Samuel, the grateful mother, Hannah, wants nothing more than that he serve the Lord all his days. Her prayer is very touching: “I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord. ”

Dedication to God is the highest purpose of life, and it can be pursued in many and various ways. In our Catholic tradition, we honour Mary’s as the highest example of totally devoted life, apart from and parallel to her son’s complete self-giving. The most perfect expression of Mary’s dedicated heart is found in today’s lovely hymn of praise, the Magnificat. Here we see her rejoicing in the God who has filled the hungry with good things, and raises up the lowly.

Saint Bede the Venerable wrote of the Magnificat: “When we devote all his thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, we proclaims God’s greatness. And observing God’s commands shows that we have God’s power and greatness always at heart. Our spirit rejoices in God our Saviour and delights simply in recalling our Creator who gives us hope for eternal salvation. This is especially so for the Mother of God. She alone was chosen, and she burned with spiritual love for the Son she so joyfully conceived. Above all other saints, she alone could fully rejoice in Jesus, her saviour, for she knew Him as the source of salvation who would be born of her body, in his one person both her son and her Lord. Mary attributes nothing to her own merits but refers all her greatness to the gift of the One whose essence is power and who fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in him.”