Fourth Sunday in Advent
Dec. 22, 2019 (noon and 6 PM)
Book of the Prophet Isaiah 7:10-14
Psalm 24 1-2, 3-4 and 5-6
The Gospel of Matthew 1:18-24
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
This is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The word advent means the coming of something, or someone, significant. When it is spelled with capital A it means the four week season of Advent. A season of anticipation and preparation for the miracle of the birth of Jesus Christ. Each of the four weeks we are told the history of the preparations that take place for the birth of Jesus Christ.
In the First Sunday of Advent Jesus tells the disciples to remain vigilant in their ways so they are not caught unaware when the Son of Man comes. Jesus says “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” He is telling us that same thing. We are also waiting for Jesus to come so we must also be vigilant and prepared.
The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent tells us about John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus Christ. This is before Christ makes His appearance at the Jordan River. John reminds the people in the desert of Judea of the words the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed some 700+ years earlier “A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.” We are being told this just like Isaiah told the Israelites and John the Baptist told the people in the desert of Judea. We are to always be prepared, to correct our ways. The straight paths to the Lord are the ways for us to get to heaven. His words are very direct.
The gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent tells us again about John the Baptist. Now he is in prison for preaching, teaching and preparing the people for the coming of Jesus Christ. John’s disciples tell him about the miracles that Jesus is performing. John sends them to Christ to ask Him “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus sends the disciples back to John to tell him of the miracles that He has been performing and that they have seen and heard. Jesus’ list of miracles are fulfilling another part of the Prophet Isaiah’s prophecies. Jesus then speaks to the crowd in the desert asking what they are looking for. A king in fine clothing or a prophet? Jesus then says “This is about the one who it is written “behold I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.” Jesus is telling them that John the Baptist is the one sent to prepare the way of the Lord. Jesus further proclaims that on earth there is no greater person born of women than John the Baptist. Yet, following that praise, Jesus is also telling the people that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist. Our measure of success with earthly values will not be what gets us into heaven. We will get into heaven if we have remained vigilant in our love of God and continue to prepare for that unknown time when the Son of Man comes.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent, today, we hear about the prelude to the birth of Jesus Christ. Mary, the Virgin Mother, has become pregnant just as the Angel Gabriel told her- through the power of the Holy Spirit. She had responded to his message from God by declaring “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to your words.” Mary shows all of us her unshaking faith in God. The result of that faith is her pregnancy with the infant child Jesus. Now, at the time she becomes pregnant, Mary is betrothed to Joseph but, in the Jewish tradition, they are not yet living together. Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant before they live together. Joseph is a good man. He does not want to publicly disgrace Mary despite what, I am sure he thought, was her betrayal. Instead, he chooses to divorce Mary quietly rather than stoning her as Jewish law allowed. Once again, the angel steps in and he tells Joseph not to divorce Mary because she is complying with the instructions of the Lord. Joseph shows his tremendous faith in the Lord, just as Mary did, by accepting the angel’s words without doubt or question. Joseph is an example of how the love of a husband for a wife, and a father for his family, should be- modeled after God’s love for us. His faith in the Lord’s word was demonstrated by living with Mary, faithfully, as the earthly father of Jesus Christ. For this St. Joseph has been named the patron Saint of the Roman Catholic Church the church founded by Jesus Christ.
The name Jesus is derived from the Hebrew name ‘Yeshua’ which means ‘to deliver, rescue, save, salvation.’ This is why Jesus came into the world- to share in our humanity so He could die on the cross. That death rescues and saves us and allows us to share in His divinity. The priest, or the deacon, recalls this at every Mass when the pouring the water into the wine before the consecration and transubstantiation. They pray “May we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”
These four weeks of Advent we have listened on how to have a successful journey to heaven. We must be vigilant and continually preparing for the coming of the Lord. Now we all know that we can listen to these lessons but we are not always successful putting them into practice. For everything we do in life, successful or not, preparations are made and there are dates, times and goals to be met. Are we able to be vigilant and prepare for the event of Christs’ coming? We know that it is an event that we do not know the date or time of. We just know that it will happen. We want to succeed in that goal even more than we want to succeed in our earthly goals. We should be examples to the world on how Jesus wants us to live and His love for us. Let every heart prepare Him room.
Jesus’ love for us is infinite and exponential. If you are a parent then think of the love you had when your child was born. I know, in my case, that I could not believe how, in the instant our oldest child was born I had, and still do, this infinite love for him. That infinite love is exponential because continues with each of our other two children. And now with our three grandchildren. Just when you think you do not have enough love for another God proves you are thinking wrong. That is when you realize that God has given you more than enough love to share with others.
In a few short days we will celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ. We are all preparing for this holiday. If we are traveling to see family or friends, or if they are coming to visit us, then preparations for travel have to be made. We have to plan meals and make beds. We have spent hours shopping for the ‘perfect gift’ for that someone special or our children, grandchildren etc. to show them our love and affection for them. We spend a lot of time sending out Christmas cards to people to show that we think of them, and consider them, in a special way, to be a part of our lives. We value those relationships. We show our appreciation to others for what they do for us by us doing something for them making their Christmas brighter. We are called to care for others the way Christ cares for us. The best way we can do that is not through gifts. The greatest gift we can give is to prepare, and make straight, the way to the Lord for everyone we know. I pray that we prepare not only for the earthly glorious celebration of Christmas but also for the Mass not just celebrating the Birth of Christ but for every Mass.
Our journey is about love, preparation of our heart and soul and those of others, for the coming of Jesus Christ. We must have faith and trust in the Lord the same way that a young Mary, and her betrothed Joseph, did when they accepted His words delivered by an angel. It will not always be easy. In fact, it will often be difficult because the devil will constantly attack us but especially when we are doing things that he does not want. That would be preparing for Christ and leading others to Him. That thwart the devils plans to lead us, and others, away from God. We need to place our trust in God to help us in those situations.
Four weeks ago I suggested three Church New Year resolutions. It is my prayer these will help us prepare the way of the Lord and make our roads traveled straighter.
1/ Fulfill our Sunday Mass obligation every week. As a family whenever possible. I am sure many of us know the C and E (Christmas and Easter) Catholics. If you are here today, and that applies to you, we welcome back. We are very glad that you are here to recognize the Birth of Jesus Christ, the founder of our faith. Come back again. Jesus misses you and He loves you.
2/ Learn about the Eucharistic. Read Catechism sec. 1374. And then maybe some more of it.
3/ Show your children your faith through your example. Your children are baptized in order to lead them into full participation in the Catholic faith. That participation includes fulfilling our weekly Sunday Mass obligation. Our children learn from us first. They need to see that our relationship with God and Mass are important to us.
These are important preparation steps for the coming of the Son of Man.
May God bless you, your families and your friends in this joyful celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Have a very Merry Blessed Christmas.