Deacon Sil's Word For All Fourth Sunday Of Advent
Homily: All In God's Hands
Table of Contents
First Reading (Micah 5: 1-4)
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19)
Second Reading (Hebrews 10: 5-10)
Gospel (Luke 1: 39-45)
Homily: All in God's Hands
Prayers of the Faithful
Go To the Table of Contents First Reading (Micah 5: 1-4)
Now you are walled about with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike upon the cheek the ruler of Israel. But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who .are little 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 days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth; then the rest of his brethren shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
Go To the Table of Contents Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19)
Refrain: Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved. 1) O Shepherd of Israel, hear us, shine forth from your cherubim throne. O Lord, rouse up your might. O Lord, come to our help! (Refrain) 2) God of hosts, turn again, we implore, look down from heaven and see. Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has planted. (Refrain) 3) May your hand be on those you have chosen, those to whom you have given your strength. And we shall never forsake you again; Give us life that we may call upon your name. (Refrain)
Go To the Table of Contents Second Reading (Hebrews 10: 5-10)
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Lo, I have come to do your will, O God,' as it is written of me in the roll of the book." When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "Lo, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Go To the Table of Contents Gospel (Luke 1: 39-45)
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
Go To the Table of Contents Resources:
- Good News, by Rev. Joseph T. Nolan. Liturgical Publications, Inc., 2875 South James Drive, New Berlin, WI. 53151. - Stable Time. From Homiletics, by Dr. Leonard Sweet. Communication Resources, 4150 Belden Village Street NW, Suite 400, Canton, Ohio 44799-6115.. - Days of the Lord, Volume 1, pp. 155-162. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Mn., 1991. - Catechism: #'s 456-511 (And the Word became flesh), & 721-726 ("Rejoice, full of grace"). United States Catholic Conference, Washington, DC: 1994. [As recommended in A Homily Sourcebook (The Universal Catechism), by N. Abeyasingha. The Pastoral Press, Washington, D.C.: 1993.] - The Living Pulpit (see issue of October - December 1997 on "Advent", especially pp. 28-29 & 41), 5000 Independence Avenue, Riverdale, NY 10471. - The Gospel of Luke, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. 1975. - The Visit, by William J. Bausch. From More Telling Stories, Compelling Stories, pp. 125-129. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, Ct. 06355: 1993.
Go To the Table of Contents Homiletic Ideas:
- Luke 1:41 "...the child leaped in her womb..." [NRSV] THOSE were the times, my child, when we danced. I Danced in the Morning. (Todd Jenkins, email@example.com)
Go To the Table of Contents Homily: All in God's Hands
Here we are at the last Sunday of Advent, four days before Christmas, and our readings are preparing us not only for Christmas Day, but also for the end of the Christmas season at the Feast of the Epiphany. For it was on that day, as it is written in the gospel of Matthew, that the astrologers came to Jerusalem seeking the King of the Jews. At this news, Herod was greatly disturbed, so he summoned the chief priests and scribes and inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. The answer which they gave to him "in Bethlehem of Judea" was probably researched from the passage of Micah which comprises our first reading today. "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little 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 days."
In the second reading, Paul quotes from Psalm 40, part of which is "sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me". This verse means "You created me that in my body and with my body I should do your will." The writer to the Hebrews has taken the words of the psalm and put them into the mouth of Jesus. What these words tell us is that God wants not animal sacrifices but obedience to his will. In its essence, sacrifice was a noble thing. It meant that someone was taking something dear to them and giving it to God as a demonstration of their love. But human nature being what it is, it was easy for the idea to degenerate and for sacrifice to be thought of as a way of buying God's forgiveness.
The writer to the Hebrews was not saying anything new here. Long before him, the prophets had seen how sacrifice had degenerated and had told the Israelites that what God wanted was not the blood of animals but the obedience of a person's heart. That is precisely what many of the Old Testament prophets like Hosea, Isaiah and the psalmists said. One of my favorites is Micah who put it this way: "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' He has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." (1)
If we turn our attention to today's gospel, we see that Mary and Elizabeth also obeyed the will of the Father in their own bodies by bearing Emmanuel, God's only Son in the flesh, and John, his immediate predecessor in ministry, as the liturgies for the last two weeks have emphatically pointed out to us. When we look at these two women, we realize that if someone places themselves in the hands of God, then anything is possible. The Spirit enables the Virgin Mary to become pregnant in the absence of a human father. But the Spirit is also at work in Elizabeth, a woman who is well past her child-bearing years. Thus the intervention of the Spirit was needed to accomplish God's will in her. So in this gospel, we have the young virgin on the one hand and on the other, the childless woman who was an object of scorn in the Jewish society. That was because they considered children to be a gift from God; so conversely, childlessness was considered to be evidence of God's disfavor.
So when Elizabeth sees Mary, she sings and dances for joy; likewise, the child in her womb leaps for joy. To a mother whose biological clock has long stopped ticking audibly, in a time when fetal heartbeats were difficult to distinguish from maternal ones, a leaping child in the womb is a cause for great celebration. We can almost picture the aging Elizabeth gracefully dancing across the room as the baby John beats a rhythm of joy against her insides. Fred and Ginger's duets never meshed so smoothly; Lionel Ritchie never saw such dancing on the ceiling; Michael Jackson never moon-walked with more grace; MTV never captured such a joyous and harmonious rug-cutting. What a beautiful scene it must have been! (2)
And why do they sing and dance for joy? In fact, have you noticed that in Luke's gospel, everyone sings. Zechariah sings when his tongue is loosed. Angels sing to shepherds. Old Simeon sings his Dismissal Song. And what is the cause of all of this singing? The answer is the Spirit. The Holy Spirit hovers over this new creation, these new children within the wombs of two cousins, just as the Spirit hovered over the world at creation. Genesis tells us that "the Spirit breathed on the waters and life came forth." And this same Spirit is at work in our lives too. (3)
One day, a woman named Lisa happened upon a swallow's nest tucked under the roof of her porch. She looked on enviously as the small birds created a comfy home for their anticipated clutch of eggs. Lisa wished that she and her husband, Wayne, would be doing the same thing. They had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a child. They were ready to have a family, but in spite of all their prayers, she hadn't been able to conceive. In May, the swallows laid their eggs, and Lisa watched with interest to see when they would hatch. She had become fascinated by the little domestic drama of the swallow family, and it kept her from dwelling on her own unrealized hopes for a family. But after a month, the eggs still had not hatched. This was unusual for swallow eggs, and could be a sign of some problem. Lisa hoped not; she had a bit of an emotional investment in seeing that the swallow family was complete. Six weeks passed, and still the eggs didn't hatch. Lisa called around to various agencies to ask for their advice. They all said that the eggs would never hatch this far past their due date. Lisa's hopes about her own chances for a family had been tied up in seeing the sparrow eggs hatch successfully. Now her heart was breaking over this turn of events. But then one evening, Lisa and Wayne went to a banquet at which a high school choir sang "His Eye Is On the Sparrow." It is a song of reassurance, a song about trusting a loving God who watches out for all of His creatures, no matter how small. Lisa came away from the banquet with a new sense of peace. She knew that God was still in her life, and that she could trust God's timing in all things. Occasionally, Lisa still visited the nest. Then one day, Lisa went out to the nest and found it full of baby swallows. After 10½ weeks of incubation, the eggs had hatched. Normal incubation for swallow's eggs is approximately two to three weeks. As Lisa gazed on the little birds, she began to cry. Throughout the wait for the eggs to hatch, she had learned to let go of her own impatience and to trust God's timing. This seemed to be proof that God can work things out in His time and in His way. And today, Lisa is even more sure of this truth. For she and Wayne are reminded of it every day as they look at their two little boys, the children they were finally able to conceive. (4)
The lesson of the readings is that if God can break into the lives of two peasant women like Mary and Elizabeth, then he can do the same for us, if we let him. No matter what our own situation as we approach this holiday season, we need to put ourselves into God's hands. We need to approach the Christ child in the manger on Christmas morning and lay our cares at his feet. We need to strive to be at peace with our situations, no matter how difficult they may be. And I'm fully aware that this is easier said than done. But we have to have faith, we have to believe that God will accomplish his will through us, through our bodies which we offer up for his use. You see, Paul put the words of the psalmist into our Lord's mouth: "a body you have prepared for me." And "Behold, I come to do your will, O God." The body that was prepared for Christ on Christmas morning would some day be nailed to a cross for our salvation. But from his death came the resurrection and the promise of eternal life for us.
We too have to believe that no matter what befalls us, God will use those events to bring about some good. All that we need to do is offer ourselves and our bodies up to the Lord. What appears today to be an insurmountable obstacle, much like Elizabeth's childlessness, may one day be a cause for rejoicing. For nothing is impossible with God.
Go To the Table of Contents References:
1. The Letter to the Hebrews, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. 1975. 2. Submitted by Todd Jenkins, firstname.lastname@example.org. 3. Hope, by William J. Bausch. From Storytelling the Word, by William J. Bausch, pp. 143-146. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, Ct. 06355: 1996. 4. Swallow Tale, by Lisa Estes Ford. From Guideposts, March 1997, p.28-31. (Quoted in Mary's Song. From Dynamic Preaching, Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, Tn. 37922. Visit their web page at http://www.sermons.com) Used with permission.
Go To the Table of Contents Penitential Rite:
Lord Jesus, you are the Son of God and the Son of Mary. Lord, have mercy. Christ Jesus, you come in the flesh to be one like us. Christ, have mercy. Lord Jesus, you are the source of our joy and our faith. Lord, have mercy.
Go To the Table of Contents Prayers of the Faithful
Celebrant: The prophet Micah has told us that the one who is to come shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord. Assured that the Lord will provide for our needs, we lift our prayers to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer". That the members of the Church will use these last few days of the Advent season to prepare their hearts as a fitting place for the Lord, we pray to the Lord. That those who visit relatives during the upcoming Christmas season may rejoice in the company of family and thereby follow the example of Mary and Elizabeth, we pray to the Lord. That the Lord may increase our love for one another and especially for those in need at this blessed time of the year, we pray to the Lord. That the Lord may find us watching and ready at his coming, we pray to the Lord. For the success of our parish campaign, for willing volunteers and generous giving, we pray to the Lord. For all of the intentions which God knows are in our hearts and which we recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious and loving God, we rejoice in the remembrance of the coming of your Son as one like us. In the example of Mary and Elizabeth, may we learn to have faith and realize that nothing is impossible with you. We ask this in the name of Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.
Deacon Sil Galvan Copyright