Saturday, December 22, 2007
4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT - A
The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your
God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! But Ahaz
answered, "I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!" Then Isaiah
said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary
people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the LORD himself will
give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and
shall name him Emmanuel.
Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart
for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his
prophets in the holy Scriptures, the gospel about his Son, descended
from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in
power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from
the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received the
grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the
sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who
are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in
Rome, called to be holy. Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary
was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found
with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a
righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to
divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of
the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is
through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will
save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what
the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall
conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means
"God is with us." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord
had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
The celebration of Christmas is just two days away, and the Church, on
this fourth Sunday of Advent, gives us two names to guide us on this
home stretch. The names are essential for us to capture the true
reason for this season of Advent. The two names also contain within
them the lessons for us how best to prepare and respond to the
realities they indicate. The two names both refer, unsurprisingly,
The first was chosen by God the Father over 700 years before His Son
took flesh in Mary's womb. The prophet Isaiah announced: "The Lord
himself will give you a sign. Behold a virgin will be with child and
bear a son and shall call him Emmanuel". Seven centuries later, in
describing the miraculous events of Jesus' conception and birth, St.
Matthew wrote, "All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by
the Lord through the prophet, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and
bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel". The apostle then tells
us what the name means: "God is with us." "God-is-with-us." Since the
time the prophecy was given about this name, the Jews thought that a
child born of a young woman would be a symbol that God was "with them"
in the sense of being "on their side." They would never have been
able to fathom that God was intending to fulfill that prophetic title
God, the Creator, was going to take on the nature of his creature. God
himself was going to enter the human race, and be "descended from
David according to the flesh". But there was a clear purpose for God's
presence. That purpose is given to us in the second name we encounter
in today's Gospel.
The angel tells Joseph that Mary will bear a son and he is to name him
Jesus. This name, Jesus, means "God saves," and the angel tells
Joseph quite clearly what this infant will save the Jews from: "he
will save his people from their sins." God-is-with-us, therefore, for
the purpose of saving us from our sins.
The Son of God did not become God-with-us merely to "hang around with
us," in the sense of friends hanging around with their barkada or
close circle of friends but the Son of God came to hang FOR us on the
cross. But not only does the name Jesus interpret the name Emmanuel,
but the name Jesus also makes possible Emmanuel, because Jesus saved
us from our sins so that we could be much more fully WITH HIM who came
to be WITH US. Our sins prevent communion with God and hence Jesus,
in coming to save us from them, was making possible the fulfillment of
the prophetic name Emmanuel.
Emmanuel means "God IS with us," not "God WAS with us." Jesus means
that "God saves," not "God saved." Our sharing in the mystery of
Christmas, therefore, depends on whether we enter in the present into
this salvific presence. The two titles point to the greatest gift
that we will receive this Christmas. But the question is whether we
will receive the gift, open it up, and take advantage of it.
The word "Jesus" indicates that God came to save us from our sins, and
Jesus founded a sacrament on Easter Sunday evening to do so. But we
need to respond to that offer of merciful love.
So many Catholics receive that gift but leave it as an unopened
package in the corners of their lives. That is one of the reasons why
their celebration of Christmas is not nearly as joyful as God wants it
to be. Our appreciation for Jesus' coming into the world is directly
dependent on whether we realize we need him - that we are sinners in
need of so loving a savior.
Jesus is like the world's greatest surgeon walking into a cancer ward.
The path to healing is for each patient to allow the doctor to operate
and remove the cancer. Jesus, who created us without our will, will
not save us against our will. We must recognize our need for
salvation and come to receive it in the way that Jesus himself set it
In Mary the Queen Church, the divine physician is seeing his patients
every day in the operating room of the confessional box. Our
Christmas joy will be directly proportional to our realization of
Jesus as Savior and our reception of Jesus as Savior. Jesus,
moreover, is "God-with-us", and there is no expiration date to his
presence. In fact, prior to his Ascension into heaven, he told us,
"Know that I am with you always, until the end of time". Jesus of
course is with us in many ways - through creation, through grace,
through Sacred Scripture, through his image in others, through those
he ordained to act in his very person, through his mystical body, the
But there is one way above all others by which Christ remains with us:
in his body and blood. The Eucharist is Emmanuel, God-with-us. The
same God who was in Mary's womb we receive in our bodies at Holy
Communion. The same Jesus whom the wise men traveled such great
distances over several months to adore, we have the same privilege to
worship in our churches and adoration chapels. The question is whether
we take that presence of Jesus seriously or whether we take it for
Jesus established the sacrament of the Eucharist so that he who is
God-with-us could be with us in a communion of love. Each of us is
called to ask whether the real presence of Jesus Christ in the
tabernacle has any impact at all on our lives, or whether we live,
practically, as if the tabernacle were empty or just full of bread.
The joy we experience at Christmas will be dependent upon whether we
take Emmanuel seriously and strive to come to be with God who did so
much and became so humble to be with us. Jesus, Emmanuel, is coming.
May we greet him, sincerely, and develop the type of personal
relationship with Jesus that Mary and Joseph had, so that we might
experience his salvation and be with him in this world and forever in
We pray ...
... for a deep and profound respect for life, especially for the
... for the strength, healing and speedy recovery of:
- Damaso Guevara and Eligia Fernando
- Herminia Guiden
- Liza and Cyril
- Isabel Maloles
... for the personal intentions of Josephine Pascua
... for the eternal repose of the souls of
- Remberto, Estrella, Florence and Danilo
- Milagros C. Reyes
Eternal rest grant unto them and may perpetual light shine upon them.
May they and all the dearly departed rest in peace.
... for all the prayer intentions in the MTQ Dailyprayer Diary.
- Birthday: Beatrice Lim Le Hun Co
- Health and Thanksgiving:Diana S. Rodriguez
- Wedding Anniversary: Errol and Joy Angeles
- Wedding Anniversary: Isao & Peggy Lim Furukawa
- Wedding Anniversary: Josephine/Roderic Ng
... for world peace and reconciliation.
Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our prayers
and for those who need our prayers the most.
Have a good day!
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