Fourth Sunday of Advent

The VisitationIcon copy 2

                ‘Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Prayer of the Week

Hail, Mary! Full of grace,

The Lord is with thee;

Blessed are thou among women,

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

Pray for us sinners,

Now, and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

Collect

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,

your grace into our hearts,

that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son

was made known by the message of an Angel,

may be his Passion and Cross

be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Reading I

Mi 5:1-4a

Thus says the LORD:

You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah

too small 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 times.

Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time

when she who is to give birth has borne,

and the rest of his kindred shall return

to the children of Israel.

He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock

by the strength of the LORD,

in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;

and they shall remain, for now his greatness

shall reach to the ends of the earth;

he shall be peace.  

The Word of the Lord.

Application

The ways of God are certainly not our ways and the mercy of God surpasses all human understanding. When he sent Michah to recall his rebellious, thankless people, and told him to foretell the national and personal disasters their sins were about to bring on them, he gave at the same time a glimpse of the glorious future that awaited them. They took note of the promise and their descendants remembered their promise, for the priests of Jerusalem were able to tell Herod where Christ the Messiah was to be born (see Mt. 2:4), yet the certainty of a glorious future was not enough to turn them from their sinful way of living.

Notwithstanding this, the merciful God still kept his promise. The Messiah, the Redeemer, was born later in Bethlehem and he founded a universal kingdom for Jew and Gentile promising an eternal kingdom to those who would be faithful members of his earthly one. We have called the Jews unworthy and thankless but who are we to offer to take the mote out of their eyes?

The Jews had indeed seen the wondrous love and mercy of God, but have we Christians not experienced that love and mercy to an infinitely greater degree? God sent his Son to live and die for us and yet how cold is our love, how meager and begrudging is our thanksgiving, our return for this infinite divine love?

Like the Jews of Michah’s time we are aware that God has promised us the kingdom of heaven where we shall have eternal happiness and peace. Yet, how many of us are willing to bear the trials of this life and shun illicit gains and pleasures for the sake of that happy eternal future? The ways of God are mysterious but surely the ways of sinful man who is willing to throw away his everlasting happiness for the sake of a passing pleasure, are more mysterious still.

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19.

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,

from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.

Rouse your power,

and come to save us.

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Once again, O LORD of hosts,

look down from heaven, and see;

take care of this vine,

and protect what your right hand has planted

the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

May your help be with the man of your right hand,

with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

Then we will no more withdraw from you;

give us new life, and we will call upon your name.

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Reading II

Heb 10:5-10

Brothers and sisters:

When Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,

but a body you prepared for me;

in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.

Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,

behold, I come to do your will, O God.'”

First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,

holocausts and sin offerings,

you neither desired nor delighted in.”

These are offered according to the law.

Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”

He takes away the first to establish the second.

By this “will,” we have been consecrated

through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The Word of the Lord

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 462 The Letter to the Hebrews refers to the same mystery:

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.”1

CCC 488 “God sent forth his Son”, but to prepare a body for him,2 he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary”:3

The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.4

CCC 606 The Son of God, who came down “from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who sent [him]”,5 said on coming into the world, “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.” “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”6 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father’s plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”7 The sacrifice of Jesus “for the sins of the whole world”8 expresses his loving communion with the Father. “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life”, said the Lord, “[for] I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”9

CCC 614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.10 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.11

CCC 2568 In the Old Testament, the revelation of prayer comes between the fall and the restoration of man, that is, between God’s sorrowful call to his first children: “Where are you?. .. What is this that you have done?”12 and the response of God’s only Son on coming into the world: “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.”13 Prayer is bound up with human history, for it is the relationship with God in historical events.

CCC 2824 In Christ, and through his human will, the will of the Father has been perfectly fulfilled once for all. Jesus said on entering into this world: “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.”14 Only Jesus can say: “I always do what is pleasing to him.”15 In the prayer of his agony, he consents totally to this will: “not my will, but yours be done.”16 For this reason Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”17 “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”18

1 Heb 10:5-7, citing Ps 40:6-8 ([7-9] LXX).

2 Gal 4:4; Heb 10:5.

3 Lk 1:26-27.

4 LG 56; cf. LG 61.

5 Jn 6:38.

6 Heb 10:5-10.

7 Jn 4:34.

8 1 Jn 2:2.

9 Jn 10:17; 14:31.

10 Cf. Heb 10:10.

11 Cf. Jn 10:17-18; 15:13; Heb 9:14; 1 Jn 4:10.

12 Gen 3:9, 13.

13 Heb 10:5-7.

14 Heb 10:7; Ps 40:7.

15 Jn 8:29.

16 Lk 22:42; cf. Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38.

17 Gal 1:4.

18 Heb 10:10.

Application

These words of the Epistle to the Hebrews are aptly chosen to remind us today, the last Sunday of our preparation for Christmas, of the real meaning of the Incarnation. It was out of love, infinite love, God created the world and all it contains. In God’s plan of creation man was the highest of all the creatures, he has inorganic and organic life, vegetative and animal life, but over and above what all other living creatures have he has an intellect and free will–a spiritual life which makes him capable of knowing and loving his Creator. From the beginning, according to the teaching of the Scotistic School, God’s plan was to raise up man to the highest possible glory, by uniting our human nature with the divine in the Person of his divine Son, and thus in the Incarnation all creation is, in its representative man, joined to its divine Creator. Our finite, puny minds cannot even begin to understand the infinite love which moved God to be so generous towards us.

And to make that love more mysterious still the world was full of sin when the Incarnation took place. Man who could and should have known and loved his Creator, had in his pride and selfishness forgotten his Benefactor and offended him. But that did not deter God’s love. It entailed suffering and a cruel death for the Son in his human nature, but that was cheerfully borne out of love for us. “Behold I come to do thy will” was the Son’s response, he humbled himself so that we should be raised up, he died so

that we should live eternally. His perfect obedience, coming from the God-man, made atonement for all the sins (of disobedience) the whole human race had ever committed or ever could commit. All we can say to this mystery of infinite love is: thank you God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for all you have done and are still doing for us, unworthy, utterly unworthy though we be.

Gospel

Lk 1:39-45

Mary set out

and traveled to the hill country in haste

to a town of Judah,

where she entered the house of Zechariah

and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,

the infant leaped in her womb,

and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,

cried out in a loud voice and said,

“Blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

And how does this happen to me,

that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,

the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

Blessed are you who believed

that what was spoken to you by the Lord

would be fulfilled.”

The Gospel of the Lord

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122015.cfm

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 148 The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. By faith Mary welcomes the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that “with God nothing will be impossible” and so giving her assent: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.”1 Elizabeth greeted her: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”2 It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed.3

CCC 448 Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord”. This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing.4 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.5 In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: “It is the Lord!”6

CCC 495 Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus”, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord”.7 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).8

CCC 523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.9 “Prophet of the Most High”, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.10 He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom”, whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.11 Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.12

CCC 717 “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”13 John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb”14 by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.15

CCC 2676 This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria:

Hail Mary [or Rejoice, Mary]: the greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this prayer. It is God himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets Mary. Our prayer dares to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult in the joy he finds in her.16

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phrases of the angel’s greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who is the source of all grace. “Rejoice. .. O Daughter of Jerusalem. .. the Lord your God is in your midst.”17 Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God. .. with men.”18 Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.

Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. After the angel’s greeting, we make Elizabeth’s greeting our own. “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of generations who have called Mary “blessed.”19 “Blessed is she who believed. .. ”20 Mary is “blessed among women” because she believed in the fulfillment of the Lord’s word. Abraham. because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations of the earth.21 Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God’s own blessing: Jesus, the “fruit of thy womb.”

CCC 2677 Holy Mary, Mother of God: With Elizabeth we marvel, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”22 Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: “Let it be to me according to your word.”23 By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: “Thy will be done.”

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death: By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the “Mother of Mercy,” the All-Holy One. We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender “the hour of our death” wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing24 to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.

1 Lk 1:37-38; cf. Gen 18:14.

2 Lk 1:45.

3 Cf. Lk 1:48.

4 Cf Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.

5 Cf. Lk 1:43; 2:11.

6 Jn 20:28,21:7.

7 Lk 1:43; Jn 2:1; 19:25; cf. Mt 13:55; et al.

8 Council of Ephesus (431): DS 251.

9 Cf. Acts 13:24; Mt 3:3.

10 Lk 1:76; cf. 7:26; Mt 11:13.

11 Jn 1 29; cf. Acts 1:22; Lk 1:41; 16:16; Jn 3:29.

12 Lk 1:17; cf. Mk 6:17-29.

13 Jn 1:6.

14 Lk 1:15, 41.

15 Cf. Lk 1:68.

16 Cf. Lk 1:48; Zeph 3:17b.

17 Zeph 3:14,17a.

18 Rev 21:3.

19 Lk 1:41, 48.

20 Lk 1:45.

21 Cf. Gen 12:3.

22 Lk 1:43.

23 Lk 1:38.

24 Cf. Jn 19:27.

Application

Filled with the Holy Spirit, that is, informed, inspired by God, Elizabeth was the first human being to proclaim the dignity, the special position given to Mary in God’s plan for our redemption. “Blessed are thou amongst women . . . the mother of my Lord,” she said. Mary was the one chosen from all eternity, from all the daughters of Eve, to be the mother of the Incarnate Son of God—no greater dignity could be conferred on any creature on earth or in heaven, she was surely the “blessed one.”

The moment she accepted the Angel’s announcement in Nazareth and said “be it done unto me according to thy word” she became the Mother of Christ, our Redeemer. And at that same moment she became our Mother also, for Christ has made us his brothers. Fortunate and blest indeed are we to have such a Mother in heaven who loves us and is supremely interested in us.

There is no stronger, no greater, no more unselfish love on earth than that of a mother for her child. Expecting nothing in return, an earthly mother will make any sacrifice even that of her own life, for the sake of her child. Mary, our Mother in heaven, has made a sacrifice for us–a sacrifice greater than any human mother could ever make–she offered her divine Son for us on Calvary and stood there to see him die slowly in agony for our sake. Could we ever doubt her love for us then, her supreme interest in us? She wants nothing for us but the greatest and the best, our eternal happiness with the Holy Trinity in heaven.

Every human mother does all she can to help her child succeed in life. Our heavenly mother does all she can (and she surely has influence with her divine Son), to help us succeed in our heavenly vocation. But we must do our part. Unfortunately many a son and daughter forget the sacrifices their earthly mothers made for them in their childhood and youth and leave them unhelped, uncomforted and lonely in their advancing years. God forbid that we should forget our earthly mothers and all they did for us and our temporal welfare, and God forbid we should ever cease to be thankful and grateful to our heavenly Mother who did so much more and who is still doing so much for our eternal well-being. Let us thank God from our hearts at Christmas for sending his divine Son to redeem us, and for giving his Son and us a Mother “blessed amongst women” and greatest of all mothers.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press

Benedictus

The Method of the Incarnation

The Incarnation of the Word means that God does not merely want to come to the spirit of man, through the Spirit, but that he is seeking him through and in the material world, that he also in fact wants to encounter him as a social and historical being. God wants to come to men through men. God has approached men in such a way that through him, and on account of him, they can find their way to one another. Thus the Incarnation includes the communal and historical aspects of faith. Taking the way of the body means that the time, as a reality, and the social nature of man become features of man’s relationship with God, features that are in turn based upon God’s existing relationship with man. God’s action brings into being “the People of God,” and “the People of God,” on the basis of Christ, become “the body of Christ”… The ultimate goal for us all is that of becoming happy. Yet happiness exists only in company with each other, and we can keep company only in the infinity of love. There is happiness only in the removal of the barriers of the self in moving into divinity, in becoming divine.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Closing Prayer

Psalm 8

Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory

in the heavens.

Through the praise of children and infants

you have established a stronghold against your enemies,

to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels

and crowned them with glory and honor.

You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

you put everything under their feet:

all flocks and herds,

and the animals of the wild,

the birds in the sky,

and the fish in the sea,

all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

http://www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/8

Advertisements

About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
This entry was posted in Advent, Bible Study, Catholic, Christian, Liturgy, The Word of God, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s