Fourth Sunday of Advent – B

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“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”

OPENING PRAYER

The Angelus

. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,

. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art 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.

. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.

. Be it done unto me according to thy word.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art 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.

. And the Word was made flesh.

. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art 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.

. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.

. That we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray,

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 by 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. Amen.

READING I

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2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

When King David was settled in his palace,
and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,
he said to Nathan the prophet,
“Here I am living in a house of cedar,
while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
Nathan answered the king,
“Go, do whatever you have in mind,
for the LORD is with you.”
But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?’

“‘It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 238 Many religions invoke God as “Father”. The deity is often considered the “father of gods and of men”. In Israel, God is called “Father” inasmuch as he is Creator of the world.1 Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, “his first-born son”.2 God is also called the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is “the Father of the poor”, of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection.3

CCC 441 In the Old Testament, “son of God” is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings.4 It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature. When the promised Messiah-King is called “son of God”, it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts. Those who called Jesus “son of God”, as the Messiah of Israel, perhaps meant nothing more than this.5

CCC 709 The Law, the sign of God’s promise and covenant, ought to have governed the hearts and institutions of that people to whom Abraham’s faith gave birth. “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant,. .. you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”6 But after David, Israel gave in to the temptation of becoming a kingdom like other nations. The Kingdom, however, the object of the promise made to David,7 would be the work of the Holy Spirit; it would belong to the poor according to the Spirit.

1 Cf. Deut 32:6; Mal 2:10.
2 Ex 4:22.
3 Cf. 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 68:6.
4 Cf. Dt 14:1; (LXX) 32:8; Job 1:6; Ex 4:22; Hos 2:1; 11:1; Jer 3:19; sir 36:11; Wis 18:13; 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 82:6.
5 Cf. I Chr 17:13; Ps 2:7; Mt 27:54; Lk 23:47.
6 Ex 19:5-6; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9.
7 Cf. 2 Sam 7; Ps 89; Lk 1:32-33.

APPLICATION

God’s ways are not man’s ways. There is a message (apart from the messianic prophecy) in today’s reading for all of us. We make plans, even noble plans, with high spiritual ideals. But for some reason, known to God, they are not what he wants. David’s plan to build a temple worthy of God in Jerusalem, would seem to us to have been a noble thought, one worthy of David’s gratitude to and respect and reverence for the God who had given him Jerusalem and had established his rule there over the Chosen People. Even the prophet Nathan, speaking as a man, not as God’s mouthpiece, agreed heartily with this noble intention expressed by David. But, as Nathan learned that night, this was not in accordance with God’s will.

David’s good intentions, however, did not go unrewarded. God promised to give him a house, a dynasty, that would last forever. And even though David sinned grievously later, God forgave him and did not withdraw his promise. Christ, David’s descendant, rules now over the Church, the messianic temple on earth. He is ruling and will rule forever over the Church triumphant in heaven.

How often in our lives have we not felt that God seemed to reject our overtures and our plans to do big things for him? For instance, how many devout parents, who by word and example did everything to foster a religious vocation in a son or daughter, found later that God evidently did not want their child among his religious? God had his reasons, but he did not reveal them to the disappointed parents. How often have we seen a young missionary, who had worked hard for years to learn the language and customs of the mission country, compelled to return home–all his efforts wasted–because of ill health which God could so easily have averted! How many times has the breadwinner, the ideal husband and father whose ambition it was to give his children all they needed to enable them to take their place in this life, and reap their eternal reward—how often has God taken him before he could put his noble and devout plans into effect?

Our lives are dotted with these question-marks. Again and again we hear of prayers for essential spiritual favors unanswered by God. If given, these answers would bring immense benefits to his pilgrim Church. Yet, his answer is not forthcoming! It would seem as if he did not appreciate our good motives and our good intentions! But today’s reading shows that this is not the case. God views this world from eternity; each of us sees a little bit of it from his own tiny corner. God is planning for all time; our view is restricted to a few short years. Although God’s view is from eternity, this does not mean that our efforts and our good intentions, restricted though they be, go unnoticed and unrewarded. The fact, like David, that he has not allowed us to carry out our generous plans does not mean that he has no interest in us. He has greater plans for us, as he had for David.

God is weaving a beautiful, colored tapestry of the life story of the human race. Each one of us is but a tiny spot in that picture. But each spot, no matter how tiny, brings out the beauty of the whole canvas. We may want, from the noblest and highest of motives, to be different, but the divine Artist knows better. We may be most anxious to do bigger and better things for him, to occupy more of the canvas, but the darker and smaller spots are as necessary for the total tapestry as are the bright, extended colors. Furthermore, if God chooses us for the less glamorous roles, it is because these roles are necessary and he knows we are the very ones best suited to fulfill them. On the other hand, the bigger and the more honorable tasks may be those which the less willing subjects of God may be moved to carry out. David was, on the whole, loyal to God. He had moments of weakness but he humbly repented when he realized his guilt. Solomon, his son, for whom God reserved the building of his temple, did little else for God. The work and sincerity he put into the construction of the temple may have been for him the means of earning his eternal salvation.

Let us, therefore, gladly accept whatever position God has wisely chosen for us in his tapestry. He is planning for all men. He knows what suits us best and what suits others. We can be certain that none of our good intentions, none of our sincere desires to do greater things for him, will go unrewarded, even though he may not want us to carry out these intentions. David was not allowed to build the house of God in Jerusalem, but God planned to build and establish his house, his dynasty, for all eternity.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

The promises of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

READING II

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Rom 16:25-27

Brothers and sisters:
To him who can strengthen you,
according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested through the prophetic writings and,
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ
be glory forever and ever. Amen

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 143 By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.1 With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, “the obedience of faith”.2

CCC 1204 The celebration of the liturgy, therefore, should correspond to the genius and culture of the different peoples.3 In order that the mystery of Christ be “made known to all the nations. .. to bring about the obedience of faith,”4 it must be proclaimed, celebrated, and lived in all cultures in such a way that they themselves are not abolished by it, but redeemed and fulfilled:5 It is with and through their own human culture, assumed and transfigured by Christ, that the multitude of God’s children has access to the Father, in order to glorify him in the one Spirit.

CCC 2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith”6 as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations.7 Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”8 Like the inspired writers of the New Testament, the first Christian communities read the Book of Psalms in a new way, singing in it the mystery of Christ. In the newness of the Spirit, they also composed hymns and canticles in the light of the unheard-of event that God accomplished in his Son: his Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of the Father.9 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.10

1 Cf. DV 5.
2 Cf. Rom 1:5; 16:26.
3 Cf. SC 37-40.
4 Rom 16:26.
5 Cf. CT 53.
6 Rom 1:5; 16:26.
7 Cf. Rom 1:18-32.
8 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.
9 Cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Tim 2:11-13.
10 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25.

APPLICATION

This is the last Sunday of our preparation for Christmas, the feast which commemorates the birth of Christ. These words of St. Paul have been selected in order to remind us of the sublime facts commemorated at Christmas. In his infinite love and interest in his creatures, God the Father sent his beloved Son in human nature to live amongst us, to tell us of the Father’s love and plans for our happiness. More than that, because of our sins he was to suffer and die for us. But he would rise again and conquer death for all. By becoming man Christ elevated our nature when he united it with his own divine nature. He made us adopted sons of God with a claim to eternal life and the possibility of sharing in God’s kingdom forever.

This is what our Christian faith means. This is the gospel, the good news that Paul and the other Apostles preached. This is the consolation and strength which gives meaning to our otherwise miserable lives on earth. In our obedience to Christ and his gospel it enables us to rise above our weaknesses and failings and to persevere in spite of adversity.

For every true Christian Christmas is a time of rejoicing. It is a time when we think of our family and friends and show them our love. It is a time when we think of the poor, the needy, and the homeless. We try to do all we can to make things a little brighter for our fellowmen. It is a season in which we should think especially of the really poor and destitute, those namely, who do not know of God’s love, who have not heard of Christ or, having heard, refused to accept his story. These are men and women who do not know the great future God has prepared for them, and have nothing to look forward to but the grave.

These are the poorest among the poor of this earth. These are our fellowman, our brothers and sisters, who are most in need of our charity at Christmas and all through the year. Unfortunately, we are not like St. Paul. But insignificant and ungifted though we may be, if we have true love of God and neighbor, each one of us will find many ways in which we can help to bring the light of the Christian faith to those who have it not. To live our own Christian lives sincerely and faithfully is the first step we can take in bringing the faith to others. Constant example, day in and day out, will eventually penetrate to the most closed and sealed-off mind. One truly exemplary Christian can edify and inspire a whole parish. Twenty such Christians could convert the whole neighborhood. In a few short years St. Francis of Assisi renovated and revitalized the Christian faith of a great part of Europe.

Finally, St. Paul’s words today remind us to give glory to God this Christmas and always, for the marvelous things he has done for us. Our Christian faith is a gift given us by God. The essence and the basis of that faith is the fact of the incarnation: the Son of God humiliated himself and came down to our level, to our lowly human state, in order to raise us up to brotherhood with himself and sonship with his Father. We can never thank God sufficiently for this generosity and love. Eternity itself will not be long enough for us to render thanks. But God will accept the little we can do to show our appreciation. Let us do that little this Christmas, and for the rest of our lives.

GOSPEL

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Lk 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122417.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.1 The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations.2 Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.3

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.”4 Elizabeth greeted her: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”5 It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed.6

CCC 273 Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power.7 The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that “nothing will be impossible with God”, and was able to magnify the Lord: “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”8

CCC 332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples.9 Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.10

CCC 430 Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission.11 Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, “will save his people from their sins”.12 in Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.

CCC 437 To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”13 From the beginning he was “the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world”, conceived as “holy” in Mary’s virginal womb.14 God called Joseph to “take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, so that Jesus, “who is called Christ”, should be born of Joseph’s spouse into the messianic lineage of David.15

CCC 484 The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates “the fullness of time”,16 the time of the fulfillment of God’s promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the “whole fullness of deity” would dwell “bodily”.17 The divine response to her question, “How can this be, since I know not man?”, was given by the power of the Spirit: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”18

CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.19 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”20

CCC 488 “God sent forth his Son”, but to prepare a body for him,21 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”:22
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.23

CCC 490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”24 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”.25 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

CCC 491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God,26 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.27

CCC 494 At the announcement that she would give birth to “the Son of the Most High” without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that “with God nothing will be impossible”: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.”28 Thus, giving her consent to God’s word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God’s grace:29
As St. Irenaeus says, “Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.”30 Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. ..: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.”31 Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary “the Mother of the living” and frequently claim: “Death through Eve, life through Mary.”32

CCC 497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility:33 “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee.34 The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”35

CCC 505 By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy Spirit through faith. “How can this be?”36 Participation in the divine life arises “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”.37 The acceptance of this life is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit’s gift to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in relation to God38 is fulfilled perfectly in Mary’s virginal motherhood.

CCC 697 Cloud and light. These two images occur together in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory – with Moses on Mount Sinai,39 at the tent of meeting,40 and during the wandering in the desert,41 and with Solomon at the dedication of the Temple.42 In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and “overshadows” her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus.43 On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the “cloud came and overshadowed” Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and “a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’”44 Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming.45

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.46 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,47 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”48 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”49

CCC 709 The Law, the sign of God’s promise and covenant, ought to have governed the hearts and institutions of that people to whom Abraham’s faith gave birth. “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant,… you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”50 But after David, Israel gave in to the temptation of becoming a kingdom like other nations. The Kingdom, however, the object of the promise made to David,51 would be the work of the Holy Spirit; it would belong to the poor according to the Spirit.

CCC 723 In Mary, the Holy Spirit fulfills the plan of the Father’s loving goodness. Through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin conceives and gives birth to the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit’s power and her faith, her virginity became uniquely fruitful.52

CCC 2571 Because Abraham believed in God and walked in his presence and in covenant with him,53 the patriarch is ready to welcome a mysterious Guest into his tent. Abraham’s remarkable hospitality at Mamre foreshadows the annunciation of the true Son of the promise.54 After that, once God had confided his plan, Abraham’s heart is attuned to his Lord’s compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence.55

CCC 2617 Mary’s prayer is revealed to us at the dawning of the fullness of time. Before the incarnation of the Son of God, and before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, her prayer cooperates in a unique way with the Father’s plan of loving kindness: at the Annunciation, for Christ’s conception; at Pentecost, for the formation of the Church, his Body.56 In the faith of his humble handmaid, the Gift of God found the acceptance he had awaited from the beginning of time. She whom the Almighty made “full of grace” responds by offering her whole being: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.” “Fiat”: this is Christian prayer: to be wholly God’s, because he is wholly ours.

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?”57 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.”58 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 passing59 to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.

CCC 2827 “If any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”60 Such is the power of the Church’s prayer in the name of her Lord, above all in the Eucharist. Her prayer is also a communion of intercession with the all-holy Mother of God61 and all the saints who have been pleasing to the Lord because they willed his will alone:
It would not be inconsistent with the truth to understand the words, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” to mean: “in the Church as in our Lord Jesus Christ himself”; or “in the Bride who has been betrothed, just as in the Bridegroom who has accomplished the will of the Father.”62

1 Cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:16.
2 Cf. Ezek 36; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11.
3 Cf. Ezek 2:3; Lk 1:38.
4 Lk 1:37-38; cf. Gen 18:14.
5 Lk 1:45.
6 Cf. Lk 1:48.
7 Cf. 2 Cor 12:9; Phil 4:13.
8 Lk 1:37, 49.
9 Cf. Job 38:7 (where angels are called “sons of God”); Gen 3:24; 19; 21: 17; 22:11; Acts 7:53; Ex 23:20-23; Judg 13; 6:11-24; Is 6:6; 1 Kings 19:5.
10 Cf. Lk 1:11, 26.
11 Cf. Lk 1:31.
12 Mt 1:21; cf. 2:7.
13 Lk 2:11.
14 Jn 10:36; cf. Lk 1:35.
15 Mt 1:20; cf. 1:16; Rom 1:1; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16.
16 Gal 4:4.
17 Col 2:9.
18 Lk 1:34-35 (Greek).
19 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.
20 Acts 10:38.
21 Gal 4:4; Heb 10:5.
22 Lk 1:26-27.
23 LG 56; cf. LG 61.
24 LG 56.
25 Lk 1:28.
26 Lk 1:28.
27 Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803.
28 Lk 1:28-38; cf. Rom 1:5.
29 Cf. LG 56.
30 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
31 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
32 LC 56; St. Epiphanius, Panarion 2, 78, 18: PG 42, 728CD-729AB; St. Jerome, Ep. 22, 21: PL 22, 408.
33 Mt 1 18-25; Lk 1:26-38.
34 Mt 1:20.
35 Is 7:14 (LXX), quoted in Mt 1:23 (Greek).
36 Lk 1:34; cf. Jn 3:9.
37 Jn 1:13.
38 Cf. 2 Cor 11:2.
Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.
Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.
Cf. Jn 18:37.
Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.
Cf. Ps 118:26.
39 Cf. Ex 24:15-18.
40 Cf. Ex 33:9-10.
41 Cf. Ex 40:36-38; 1 Cor 10:1-2.
42 Cf. 1 Kings 8:10-12.
43 Lk 1:35.
44 Lk 9:34-35.
45 Cf. Acts 1:9; cf. Lk 21:27.
46 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.
47 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.
48 Cf. In 11:52.
49 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.
50 Ex 19:5-6; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9.
51 Cf. 2 Sam 7; Ps 89; Lk 1:32-33.
52 Cf. Lk 1:26-38; Rom 4:18-21; Gal 4:26-28.
53 Cf. Gen 15:6; 17:1 f.
54 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38.
55 Cf. Gen 18:16-33.
56 Cf. Lk 1:38; Acts 1:14.
57 Lk 1:43.
58 Lk 1:38.
59 Cf. Jn 19:27.
60 Jn 9:31; Cf. 1 Jn 5:14.
61 Cf. Lk 1:38, 49.
62 St. Augustine, De serm. Dom. 2, 6, 24: PL 34, 1279.

APPLICATION

At the moment our Lady said: “be it done to me according to thy word” the most stupendous event that ever happened, or ever could happen on earth, took place on this planet of ours. The Son of God took on human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. We are familiar with this story from childhood. We often say the Angelus in which this tremendous act of God’s love is described. Although familiarity in this case does not breed contempt, it does help to blunt the real impact on our minds of such an extraordinary occurrence. If God had created a very special child, and made him into an outstanding saint, so that he could intercede with God for us, this would be a great act of love for us on God’s part. Or, if he had sent an angel from heaven in human form, to teach us all about God and to help us to lead holy lives, this would deserve our deepest gratitude. But neither a saintly man, nor a holy angel could do for us all that God wanted. No man or angel could make us adopted sons of God and heirs of heaven. It was necessary, in God’s plan for us, that his divine Son should become man, should share our humanity, so that we could share his divinity.

Could infinite love have gone any further? Our creation, the fact that we exist as human beings on earth, is a great gift to us on the part of God. Of what value could eighty, a hundred, even seven hundred years of a continuously happy life on this earth be for us if we learned that we had to depart this life forever one day? In a world tormented by sin and its evil effects our normal span of life would be less satisfying. However, when God created us, he so planned that our stay here would be but a stage, a stepping stone in fact, toward our everlasting home. We are well aware indeed of the lengths to which God’s love has gone in order to make us his children and heirs to his kingdom. Are we, however, grateful to him for the love he has shown us? Are we honestly and sincerely trying to make ourselves worthy of the great future he has in store for us? Today is a suitable occasion to look right into our hearts, to see how we stand with God. During the week we shall be keeping the feast of Christmas. The Baby in the manger will remind us of what God has done and is still doing for us. What are we doing in return? Have we shown our gratitude by living as true followers of Christ? If most of us must answer: “no,” this is the time to change our course and return to the right road once more. God is asking this of us today. Shall our answer be: “behold here I am Lord, your humble and grateful servant, let it be done to me according to your word”?

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

BENEDICTUS

Genuine Joy

It is in fact true, is it not, that all joy which arises independently of Christ or contrary to his will proves insufficient and only thrusts the person back down into a confusion in which, when all is said and done, he can find no lasting joy? Only with Christ has authentic joy made its appearance and the only thing of ultimate importance in our lives is to learn to see and know Christ, the God of grace, the light and joy of the world. Our joy will be genuine only when it no longer depends on things that can be stripped from us and destroyed and when it has its basis rather in those innermost depths of our existence which no worldly power can take from us. Every external loss should turn us back to these innermost depths and better dispose us for our true life… To celebrate Advent means to bring to life within ourselves the hidden Presence of God. It takes place to the extent that we travel the path of conversion and change our cast of mind by turning from the visible to the invisible. As we travel this path, we learn to see the miracle of grace; we learn that there can be no more luminous source of joy for human beings and the world than the grace that has appeared in Christ. The world is not a futile confusion of drudgery and pain, for all the distress the world contains is supported in the arms of merciful love; it is caught up in the forgiving and saving graciousness of our God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Oh, God who loves me with such tenderness,

I beg you for moments of quiet in this day and in the days ahead.

I long to savor this joy, this anticipation of the great gift you give us.

I ask for the peace and joy of “watchful hope.”

Give me the grace to carry in my heart the soul-lifting awareness of Emmanuel – God With Us.

What joy, what a gift.

The Advent song comes to me and fills my heart: “Emmanuel , Emmanuel.

Who are we that you should love us so well?”

I want to walk in gratitude in these last days of Advent

and place myself in the service of your plan for me.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Amen.

Closing Prayer used with permission from Catholic Expert.

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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.
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