Pastoral Sharings: "Fourth Sunday of Advent"


Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Posted for December 21, 2014

We have now come to the last Sunday of Advent and we are in the immediate preparations for Christmas. Each year Christmas seems to come around quicker and quicker and it is as if Advent hardly lasts any time at all.

Perhaps we have become over preoccupied with the practical preparations for Christmas, but we should be careful not to let ourselves to become so distracted that we neglect to prepare ourselves to celebrate this season in a truly spiritual way.

Actually the Readings today help us to properly prepare for Christmas and on this last Sunday of Advent they are extremely interesting.

The first reading is about King David who is the most famous of the Kings of Israel. We remember how his predecessor King Saul lost favour in the eyes of God and we recall how the Prophet Samuel then chose David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, and anointed him as Saul’s successor. From that moment David grew from being an insignificant shepherd boy to a man of great stature.

We recall how he killed the giant Goliath by hitting him on the forehead with a stone from his sling. As a result Saul made David commander of his armies and gave him his daughter Michal in marriage. We remember too David’s famous friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan.

When both Saul and Jonathan died in battle David was then proclaimed King. He made Jerusalem his capital and took the Ark of the Covenant to reside there. As we heard in our first reading David had a great desire to build a temple for the Lord in Jerusalem; but the Prophet Nathan tells him that he is not to build a house for God to dwell in, but instead God would build a house for him. By this he means that God would grant David a great family of descendants; we call this the House of David.

We Christians have always considered ourselves to be part of David’s house and line, not through direct biological lineage like the Jews but through a deep spiritual lineage. It remains very important that Jesus himself can directly trace his ancestors back to King David because it was firmly believed that the Messiah was to be a Son of David.

Since we are the spiritual descendants of Jesus we regard ourselves as being spiritual descendants of King David too.

According to the Jewish people the coming Messiah would incorporate many of the best characteristics of King David and his rule would unite the People of Israel and inaugurate a time of universal peace and brotherhood.

Of course, we now see how the Kingdom of God as inaugurated by Jesus Christ goes far beyond anything the Jewish people could have conceived. Christ’s is no purely earthly Kingdom but is one which unites heaven and earth as well as past, present and future.

Ultimately the Kingdom of God is all the people of the earth from all the ages gathered in worship around God’s throne.

In the Gospel reading we are told the story of the Annunciation as given to us by Luke the Evangelist. We hear the story of how the Angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is to be the mother of the Son of God. We hear too how Mary agrees to this divine proposal in her most beautiful words, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.’

The Church places these two readings from scripture before us today because there is a very strong link between them.

It is understandable that David wants to build a temple for the Lord but he is told that this is not to be his task. It is a role eventually given to his son Solomon who constructs a fabulous temple in Jerusalem, but his Temple only lasts about four hundred years and was in fact completely demolished by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. A second temple was built after the Jewish people returned from exile in Babylon, but this in turn was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD and was never rebuilt.

The lesson we have to draw is that these earthly temples, while being important places of worship in their day, were essentially material constructions. What we realise is that God cannot be housed in a world of his own creation. As an entirely spiritual entity God cannot be contained within four walls. God exists completely outside time and space; it is he who gives shelter to the world and not the world which gives shelter to God.

This brings us to Mary and to the account of her Annunciation. After many generations it is she who gives a home to the Son of God in her womb. This is a role for which she is specially chosen and prepared by God. It is she who becomes the real temple, the dwelling place of God’s only Son.

As we have seen God exists entirely outside the material world and yet he chooses to occupy the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary in order to achieve his purposes, namely our salvation.

Mary is prepared for this unique task through her Immaculate Conception so that she could be free from sin and worthy enough to carry Christ in her womb. Moreover, the special graces given to her enabled her to be preserved from sin throughout her life.

We too become sharers in this great mystery because God sends his Spirit into our hearts and so lives within us. This is one of the ongoing results of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that occurred on the first Pentecost day.

As we were taught as children, this makes us Temples of the Holy Spirit. This wonderful gift helps us each one of us to live grace filled lives and to be faithful to the message of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

We see now how the two readings link up. We see why David was commanded not to build a temple; we see how Mary herself became the true temple and indeed we see too how we ourselves share in this great gift to the world.

This is the last Sunday before Christmas; it marks an important stage in our preparation for the Feast of the Nativity.

It is a day on which we reflect on the great span of history involved in preparing for Christ’s coming into our world. It is a day on which we come to a greater realisation of Mary’s particular role in God’s plan for the salvation of the world. It is a day which reminds us how deeply we too are involved in in this plan and how intimately we are connected to Christ and to his Mother Mary.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
December 21, 2014

Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year B—December 21, 2014
On this last Sunday in Advent, an angel startles a young woman in Nazareth. What was old, and what was new in his message to her?

Gospel (Read Lk 1:26-38)

How many times have we heard this Scripture read? If it is very familiar to us, we should make the effort to hear it now with fresh ears. Perhaps we can do that by trying to imagine what it was like for Mary to have this conversation with Gabriel as it happened in history.

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Luke 1: 26–38

Gospel Summary

On the carefully programmed Advent journey to Christmas, the Fourth Sunday belongs to Mary. This is so because Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, necessarily involves the motherhood of Mary. However, the story of that birth is reserved for Midnight Mass, while today’s gospel tells us how Mary prepared for that wonderful event by accepting the message of an angel, which meant allowing God to determine how she could be a mother and remain a virgin.

Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Everlasting Desire
As the whole world prepares to celebrate Christmas, making believe that the Christmas Season has started (It hasn’t yet, you know), I want to pause with you to consider the real need, the real desire we all have in our lives.  This need, this deep desire is the need for the presence of God. 

The need for God’s presence in my life, and in all our lives becomes quite obvious when we consider the power of sin within us and among us.  There are times when, as St. Paul says in the Letter to the Romans, the forces of darkness appear to domineer us.  “Who can save us from these, who can save us from ourselves?” St. Paul asks.  Then he answers, “The grace, presence and life of Jesus Christ alone can save us.”  His very name, Jesus, means, God saves us.  He saves us from our sins.  He saves us from ourselves.

Prepare Well for Christ – Advice for family preparation for Christmas
Christmas marks God entering time in a new, distinct way — in a way that fulfills all of his promises to his people to be with them and to save them. He chose to come through a family, and he invites all people to be a part of that family. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman … so that we might receive adoption” (Galatians 4:4).

Year after year, Christmas offers families a season to renew the sense of wonder at the way God entered time.  How will families allow him to enter their Christmastime this year? Catholic families should use the season to regroup, renew and revitalize their faith.

Run, Don’t Walk, to the Nearing Jesus!
The Lord’s coming is near. And though we have all been well taught that the word “Advent” means “coming,” there is the danger that we think we are only passively waiting for him to come.  It is not just that the Lord is coming to us, but that we are also journeying to Him. In fact, as the Advent prayers in the Roman Missal instruct, we ought to run, not walk, and hasten to greet Him as He draws near.

Persevering Through Suffering This Advent
A while ago, I asked a woman what I could pray about for her, and her response was pretty memorable. She asked me to pray for her to suffer with Christ — to suffer well, and that her suffering may be used to bring her loved ones closer to Him.

I didn’t know that she was suffering, but if I did, I would have probably thought to pray for her — that she might be relieved of that suffering and that her burdens would become lighter.

And yet, instead of asking for relief, she asked for the graces to suffer well — so that she may be united with Christ on the Cross, and so her loved ones would, too, be drawn closer to Him.

The War on Christmas is over. Jesus won.
Kirk Cameron can breathe easy: the War on Christmas is over. Jesus won.

That’s the implication of a new Pew Research Center survey that finds nearly three-quarters of Americans — 73 percent — believe that Jesus was literally born to a virgin. This is especially surprising when you consider that only one third of Americans say that the Bible is the word of God and should be understood literally.

Waiting in Joyful Hope
Advent is a tricky little season. On the one hand it’s a kind of “little Lent” inviting Christians to enter into the hush and mystery of God – God! – becoming a tiny baby boy, laid in a manger where animals eat and birthed in conditions no first-world woman would consider laboring in.

On the other hand, it’s the last 4 weeks before Christmas, the end of the calendar year, and jam-packed with more parties, social obligations, and family traditions than the previous eleven months combined.

Confessions of a Publicly Grumpy Mom
Milk and toothpaste. That’s all that was left on my shopping list as I maneuvered myself, two shopping carts (one of the race car variety) and my five youngest sons toward the back of our local supermarket. The oldest boy was big enough to push a cart, only occasionally racing down an aisle or bumping into the back of my ankles. Thus far I had managed to avoid the restroom rodeo: that business of holding open the men’s room door and shouting into the abyss of strange men and hand dryer noises to get my boys to come out while keeping my aspiring-shopping-cart-diver three year old from jumping head first toward the tile floor.

How much of Mass can I miss? You know, and it still counts?
Second only to questions on annulments, the above question—How much of Mass can I miss and it still counts for my obligation?— is probably the single the most common canonical question lay people ask.

Confession! What a Relief!
My bride and I just went to Confession, and once again I pitied the poor priest who had to hear my lawyer’s confession!  I have never been to Confession without feeling a great sense of relief.

Here is the formula that I have followed for Confessions since childhood:

Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been ____________ since my last Confession and these are my sins.

I then recite my sins.  I follow the rule of three B’s in Confession:

Getting Ready for Judgment
December is the month of Advent and Advent is about not just the First Advent at Christmas but the Second Advent on the Last Day. Accordingly, it confronts us with the reality of Judgment.

Lots of folks wonder how to get ready for the Last Judgment. Everything in your life and mine, as well as in all the rest of the Universe, is moving inexorably toward That Day. Yet when we look at the saints, we find some remarkably unconventional advice. St. Therese of Lisieux, for instance, when asked what she would do if you knew the world was about to end, said, “I would have confidence.”

The Spouse of Mary
“Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou that faith did co-operate with his works : and by works faith was made perfect ? And the scripture was fulfilled, saying : Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God. . . . For even as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” James 2:20-25

Why Believe?
“Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all of its conquerors,” wrote G. K. Chesterton.

Faith is the Christian word. Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., in his masterful theology of faith, The Assurance of Things Hoped For, writes, “More than any other religion, Christianity deserves to be called a faith”. He points out that in the New Testament the Greek words for “faith” and “belief” occur nearly 500 times, compared to less than 100 for “hope” and about 250 for “charity” or “love.” Which is not to say, of course, that faith is more important than love, since Paul makes it clear that love is the greatest of the three theological virtues: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

Scripture Alone Is Not Enough
Grace Alone – Faith Alone – Scripture Alone.

These are the three great “Solas” of the 16th century Protestant Reformation and the theological foundations of those communions that remain separated from the Roman Catholic Church. For those who adhere to the teachings of the reformers, one is saved by grace alone through faith alone, with scripture alone being the only rule and norm for Christian doctrine.

Live Like a Hydra – Thoughts on how to get stronger when things are chaotic.
#1 What is antifragility?

I’ve been a fan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb since reading Fooled By Randomness 9 years ago. It’s one of those books that you read and you can never look at the world the same way.

Since then he’s continued to think about the same ideas, and it’s been fascinating to follow. He really hit it out of the park with Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.

Basically, antifragile things are things that benefit from disorder, obstacles, unexpected events, change, etc.


Ten Ways to Battle Gossip
Have you ever really stopped to consider how ugly gossip is?

Working in school, family and parish life you experience time and again how colossally stupid, destructive and therefore sinful gossip can be.

The reason gossip is stupid is because it almost invariably deals in half truths.

Why We Need Joyful Witnesses
Over the Thanksgiving holidays, I found myself in multiple conversations with people who were distressed about the evils of the world today: the lack of faith, poverty, injustice, and pornography, ISIS, abortion, euthanasia, and materialism, to name a few.  While all the concerns expressed were valid, I walked away from the discussions feeling depressed and hopeless about the state of affairs.

It’s easy for faithful Catholics, who desire to concentrate on the good, the true, and the beautiful, to be distracted by the abundant grotesque around them, to feel discouraged when it seems as if the darkness consistently overshadows the light.

We Cannot Excuse Ourselves
As Catholics, we have a wonderful opportunity over the next week as we patiently await the arrival of Jesus to show our co-workers, friends, family, community and the world the beauty of our faith and the great capacity for love in our hearts.  As we prepare ourselves, what are we doing to help others?  How do we keep our focus on something much more important than gift buying?

The History of Advent
The liturgical season of Advent marks the time of spiritual preparation by the faithful before Christmas. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30). It spans four Sundays and four weeks of preparation, although the last week of Advent is usually truncated because of when Christmas falls.

What’s Keeping You from Becoming a Saint?
Bigger is always better. That’s the maxim of our culture. From our vehicles to our buildings, from our paychecks to our television screens, we are never satisfied with our possessions and want more, searching for meaning in a chaotic world. Even our heroes are the people who have made it big, whether on the silver screen, the football field, or the concert arena.

Did Pope Francis say animals go to heaven?
The news networks are abuzz with stories saying that Pope Francis has said pets go to heaven.

They’ve even “helpfully” noted how this contrasts with the position of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

But the thing is . . . the whole story is false.

Here are 7 things to know and share . . .

A Rosary Album That’s a Treasure
Though I’ve been devoted to the rosary for many years, that doesn’t mean I pray it easily. Most days, it’s a battle for me, between what I think needs done — like work — and what I know needs done — like prayer. Making myself sit still or even integrate prayer into what I’m doing is an ongoing practice, one that’s been made easier thanks to the new Rosary album released from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Let the Church Be a House of Wonder
A few days ago I entered for the first time what some people in the area call the Sistine Chapel of America. There’s reason for that. Saint Anne’s Church, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, is a towering neo-Romanesque church whose interior vaults and domes, walls and panels, are covered with frescoes of sacred art. The people who love their old church and who are committed to maintaining it say that there are more frescoes here than in any other church in the nation. I don’t know how you could establish it for a fact, but I wouldn’t doubt it, either.

Votive Candles: Lights of Faith and Hope
An elderly woman stands at the votive candle area and lights eight large candles. She says a prayer and then finds her place in the pew.

On exiting the Church, a young girl, no more than ten years old, lights a small candle with her dad watching on. Her dad told her to say a prayer for her grandmother.

There is something unique and special about a candle.

Loving the Adult Jesus
When kids are very young, their needs are intense, but very simple. In the best moments, it’s easy for us parents to love our babies and little ones, because what they need is what you want to give them, and what you want is to be needed by them. In the good moments, at least, there isn’t much of a gulf between what you enjoyed doing and what you needed to do. In the best moments, it’s extremely easy to love a baby.

But when kids get older, there are more steps to love.

Pope: Christian Families, Make a Place for Jesus in Your Homes
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis spoke today about Jesus’ choice to be born into a family, saying that it shows the importance of the vocation, which Mary and Joseph epitomized through their everyday holiness.

“We can learn so much from Mary and Joseph, and especially from their love for Jesus. They help us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family, of every family,” the Pope told pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his Dec. 17 general audience.

What are the “O Antiphons” and why should I care?
The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, December 17-23, with December 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.

The Four Greatest Christmas Gifts Parents Can Give to Their Children Year-round
What are the four greatest Christmas gifts parents can give to their children year-round?

Certainly we have the obvious one, love. But how do we love? How do we manifest our love, this love which should be poured out as agape love, a love of total self-giving, a sacrificial laying down one’s life and complete pouring out of one’s own blood kind of love?

Best Catholic Books for Christmas Gifts 2014
1. Mary of Nazareth: The Life of Our Lady in Pictures by Fr. Donald Calloway — Ignatius Press, 2014

I have this book and love it! It is one of the most inspirational books I have read! Beautiful photos, uplifting quotes from the saints about Mary, all make this an ideal Christmas gift.

A Prayer for the Internet from the1946 Roman Ritual? Sure, and it’s wonderful
The old Roman Ritual was (is) a magnificent collection of blessings and prayers. It had some of the most amazing little blessings of things it would never occur to you to find in such a collection. For example, among other more common blessings of statues, religious medals, and so forth are blessings, often elaborately laid out, for things like a seismograph, a typewriter, a printing press, a fishing boat, a fire engine, a stable, medicine, a well, a bridge, an archive, a lime kiln, a ship, an automobile, mountain-climbing equipment, and an electric dynamo.

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