Homily for the 24th Sunday of Advent
Dearly beloved, some of you may be familiar with a Persian legend that tells the story of a king who needed, among his officials, one he could rely on and offer the princess to marry. The legend continues that two men emerged on the top of the list. The king decided to test them by giving them a fixed wage with the task of emptying a nearby well. They were to fetch the water in a bucket but to pour and fill in a basket. (Your guess is as good as mine.) One of them became impatient and thought of it as useless, so he stopped, because the water simply ran through the basket. The other however, maintained that they had received the wage for the work, and the result was the business of the master. So he continued until the well was virtually empty and to his surprise, he found a diamond ring that later became his own to give to the princess for marriage. Equally, as children of God, we have that mandate to trust the instruction of the Lord even though we may not have the full knowledge now.
I believe the moral of this story summarizes the message for our reflection this 4th Sunday of advent.
The Gospel Reading for this 4th Sunday of Advent tells the familiar story of the Annunciation. Of the four gospels, only St. Luke has this recorded as part of his infancy narrative. The church puts these readings together for our reflection to indicate the divine origin of Jesus, as well as to show how his birth was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and expectations. St. Luke captures that in these words:
“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."
In the words of St. Paul in the second reading, the fulfillment of this prophesy should be seen as:
“The proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings”
Dearly beloved, our ability to cherish the connection of the prophesy in the Old Testament and its fulfillment in the New Testament is the foremost important message for today.
Aside from this major theme of fulfillment, we can turn our attention to the response of David in the first reading and our mother Mary in the gospel.
David: "Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!"
Mary: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
For the sake of how I have structured my reflection, it is good for us to understand the background for these responses from these two readings today.
King David saw how far he had come, victory over his enemies and stability in the nation under his leadership.
Mary, in all humility acknowledged, how God raised her from her lowly state and called her blessed and full of grace.
You can clearly observe that the background to these responses has simply been gratitude.
It is equally good that our response to God as we meditate upon his word should first, come from a grateful heart. Therefore if I may ask you, what are you grateful to God for? Do take some time and think about it so that out of gratitude, you make your next move as you prepare for the birth of Christ.
Now observe this, many of us respond in what I shall call, “the David’s way”. He was determined to build a temple for God as a response. This is the group who respond by tasking themselves with good deeds, and seek to accomplish for the sake of their love for God. There is nothing wrong with such a response. Even then, lets look at what God said to David:
"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.”
God, as it were, tells him, wait do not be deceived, it’s not as if I helped you to achieve anything but rather I did what I wanted to do using you.
The second group response in what I will call “the Mary’s way”. She on the other hand didn’t want to set any project or target to accomplish for God, but rather offered herself to be used as God deemed fit. In other words, not what she wished to accomplish for God but whatever God wishes to accomplish through her. No wonder she was the instrument God chose to be his mother. That was far greater and richer than she could comprehend.
Yes, God likes it when we do good things for him, but he loves and accomplishes far better and unbelievable things when we allow him to use us. In summary, there are people, “the Davids” who are determined to accomplish something for God. On the other hand are the Marys, who allow God to accomplish things in them.
My question now to you is this, which of the two are you? The two represent different levels in our spiritual life. Both are good but one is much preferred and indicates spiritual maturity. Mary is our model today. She, like the man who found the diamond ring acted in obedience to their king. The point is, the more we allow God to take absolute control, the more places and wonderful discoveries we make in our lives and those around us. The caution however, is the fear of what you may give up, sacrifice, offer as a result. It’s not easy, I know. But all the evidence points to the fact that we stand to gain more in being like the Mary’s than the Davids.
I invite you to give this another thought. Are you aspiring to the Davids way or the Mary’s way? I pray that you have the grace and courage to ask God to use you as he wants.