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12/22/19 Fourth Sunday in Advent - Fr. Reggie

Advent is about newness. God acts, and he does something absolutely new.

Both the first reading and the gospel today refer to this newness. And they refer to it by reference to something that’s a core teaching of our Catholic Faith – the Virgin Birth of Christ.

In the book of Isaiah, King Ahaz is in dire straits. Enemies are besieging him, and God wants to help him out. He says, “Ask for a sign – any sign.” But Ahaz doesn’t really trust God, so he says “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” Rather strange since God explicitly told him to ask. But Ahaz doesn’t want to rely on God. And so God takes matters into his own hands. He inspires Isaiah to say: “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” Why is this important? Because for a virgin to conceive means that God has done something outside the normal course of nature. It means that he will do something new.

St Augustine wrote that God makes himself a debtor to us, not because he receives anything but because he promises us so much. And in the gospel, he fulfills the promise made to Ahaz 600 years earlier. The angel tells Joseph that it was through the Holy Spirit that Mary conceived. “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus was born of a virgin, and that means that God has done something new. God has acted to save us.

This child is truly God and truly one of us. He would die to save us from our sins and restore us to friendship with God. He would give us hope, peace, and joy.

God has done something absolutely new. 

St Therese of Lisieux described a cantankerous nun in her convent. “She had the faculty of displeasing me in almost everything, in her ways, her words, her character, everything seems very disagreeable to me.” The other nuns all felt the same way about this particular sister. However St Therese decided to do something new. She decided to love this person as much as she loved the person she liked the most. She prayed for her often. She also tried to serve her in every possible way. When tempted to snap at her she tried to give her most agreeable smile and change the subject.  St Therese’s efforts to make this sister feel loved paid off, and one day she asked Therese: “What attracts you so much towards me? Every time you look at me I see you smile.” St Therese concluded that “what attracted me was Jesus, hidden in the depths of her soul; Jesus, who makes sweet what is most bitter.” St Therese cooperated with God in doing something new, and she changed the convent. 

How can we cooperate with God in bringing the newness of his saving love to our homes and our workplaces?

Let’s follow St Therese’s lead. Who’s that person who irritates me the most? God is asking me to love that person. Not to like – to love. Our spontaneous feelings are beyond our control. But love is a choice to will the good of the other person. We can pray for that person. We can try to smile at that person. We can listen.

God’s power, given to us in the Mass, will enable us to do that. Let’s sincerely ask him now.  

 

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