Sunday Sermon for December 23, 2012, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C

Readings: Mic 5:1-4a; Heb 10:5-10; Lk 1:39-45

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” These words of St. Elizabeth to our Blessed Lady at the time of the visitation not only demonstrate the greatness of our Lady’s faith, but they also stand as a call to each of us to do the same. This has become a critical problem in our day where more and more people are ignoring or denying the words of God as contained in the Holy Scriptures.

Today if you speak with many priests about a variety of topics in Scripture they will tell you that you do not have to believe this or that, that the Lord did not really mean that, or some other rationalization to skirt the truth. Of course, there are many things in Scripture that are allegories, parables, analogies and the like. So not everything is to be taken literally; nonetheless, there are many things that are blatantly clear that are being denied or ignored in our day.

The words of God are unchangeable, just as God Himself is unchangeable. Jesus told us that heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will not pass away. He also told us that not a jot or tittle (the two smallest marks in Hebrew letters (like the dot above an “i”)) will not pass away until everything is fulfilled.

When God speaks we need to listen and we need to believe. Recall when someone pronounced our Lady’s womb and breasts to be blessed and Jesus said that the one who hears the Word of God and keeps it is more blessed. Here, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth uses almost the same words to describe our Blessed Lady. She not only believed, but she put her faith into practice so that the Son of God could be incarnate through her.

When the Lord says that He would send His Son and that He would be born of a virgin, both of these things seem impossible. God has no body and virgins do not have babies. But God meant what He said and fulfilled both of these prophecies. Not only have we been given the Son of God with a human nature like ours, but we are also told, in prophecy and through St. Paul in the second reading, that He took a body in order to do the will of God and offer Himself as a sacrifice.

We all know that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, but God had decreed, as we see in the first reading, that His Son was to be born in Bethlehem. We note that our Lady did not try to control things, that is, she did not take matters into her own hands and tell St. Joseph that they had to go to Bethlehem in order to fulfill the Scriptures. Rather, she just left everything in God’s hands and waited until she was nearly full term before it was revealed how the child would be born according to the prophecy of Micah.

Here we need to learn not only to have faith as our Lady did, but also to learn to trust God and to allow Him to lead us. Whenever we try to control things it will work out badly. I realize that there are many controlling people for whom everything seems to go easily, but from a spiritual perspective their lives are often quite a disaster. God wants us to trust Him. Once again we are reminded of the words of our Lord when He told us that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His way of righteousness and everything else will be provided.

How many of us truly seek first God’s Kingdom? How many of us really seek His way of righteousness? Let’s admit it: most of us have found convenient ways to compromise with the world or with the people around us. We all want to go to Heaven, but we want to get there on our own terms. We argue, for instance, that people who do things God’s way are strange, they are often rejected by others, they have to suffer a lot, and so on.

Yes, these people are strange if we judge them according to the world’s standards. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Hebrews says of them that the world was not worthy of them. So who really are the strange ones? Just because the worldly are in the majority does not mean that they are right or that they should be considered the norm. Jesus and Mary were strange, rejected and suffered, but they should be our norm. To make them the norm we need to begin with faith, believing God’s Word, and trust that He will fulfill what He has spoken.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit