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Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 23, 2007

Blessed Sunday!

O Emmanuel,
God-with-us,
Our King and Lawgiver,
The Awaited one of the peoples
And their Savior
Come to save us, O Lord, our God

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
(see also Matthew 1:22)

Readings:
Isaiah 7:10-14 (the virgin shall bear a son and name him Emmanuel)
Psalm 24: 1-6 “Let the Lord enter; He is King of Glory”
Romans 1:1-7 (Jesus is Son of David and Son of God)
+ Matthew 1:18-24 (an angel tells Joseph to take Mary as his wife and he obeys)

“Through [Jesus Christ] we have been favored with apostleship, that we may spread His name and bring to obedient faith all the Gentiles, among whom are you who have been called to belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:5-6).

Obedient faith. The two words go together. It was precisely because Ahaz didn’t trust God that he refused to obey. He thought he knew better than God. And it was Joseph’s unshakable faith that led him to fulfill the angel’s command at his first opportunity.

God wants what’s best for us. That’s precisely why He is qualified to be our “King and Lawgiver”. But He knows that we won’t cooperate with what’s best for us unless we trust Him. This is why He goes to so much trouble to demonstrate to us that He, and only He, is absolutely trustworthy. Throughout salvation history, He’s shown us that earthly things will fail us. He allowed Ahaz’ military power to be defeated in order to encourage him to withdraw his confidence from it. On the flip side, God’s also been showing us His own unfailing wisdom, love and power. He urged Ahaz to ask for a sign–as fantastic as he pleased–that he might witness God’s mighty power firsthand. But not only did Ahaz lack faith, he positively rejected it. He refused to listen.

This refusal to listen is the death-knell of both faith and obedience. “Faith comes through hearing, and what is heard is the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). If we refuse to listen, we will not hear the word that rouses faith. Without faith, we will not obey. The word “obey” itself comes from “ob” (toward) “audire” (to hear), to “hear toward”; a listening that leads to action.

It was this listening-faith, this obedient faith, that Joseph modeled for us by taking Mary into his home as his wife. It was this saving faith that Jesus came to bring us, that He commissioned His apostles to spread even beyond the borders of the Chosen People. It’s this living faith that frees us to live forever with Him in the eternal raptures of Heaven.

May we allow God to open our ears that we may hear (see Isaiah 50:4)…and believe…and obey.

As long as our ears are open, let’s listen for today’s treasure hunt. Bells were sewn to the hem of the high priest’s robe (Exodus 28:33) so that they tinkled as he moved. Jesus is our new High Priest (Hebrews 5:8-10). The sound of bells alerts us to the fact that He is on the move. Bells will soon call us to midnight Mass, telling us that Jesus is here, ringing in our celebration of the twelve days of Christmas. Finally, bells announce the Incarnation of Jesus in every Mass as bread and wine become His Body and blood, Soul and Divinity at the Consecration. When you hear or see bells, let them announce to you that Jesus, our High Priest, is here, that He is Emmanuel, “God with us”. O come let us adore Him!

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