Sunday Sermon for December 19, 2021, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C

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

In the first reading today, we hear about Bethlehem and how, although it is too small to be counted among the clans of Judah, from that tiny village God is going to raise up a Ruler for Israel.  We know, of course, to whom this refers, but we need to be clear that although King David also came from Bethlehem, this prophecy is not referring to him because it was written several hundred years after King David had died. 

As we make our final spiritual preparations for Christmas, this reading gives us several things to consider.  First, God often chooses the least, the smallest, the weakest, etc. to do His work.  We see this with Bethlehem, but also with our Lady and St. Joseph as well.  We know our Lord made Himself the lowest and was born in a stable and only the shepherds, the lowest in society, were informed of the glorious event.  This being the case, we must all pray and strive, not for greatness, but for humility so we may be lowly enough to do what God is asking of us.

Second, a line stands out in this passage which almost seems to be out of place.  However, it is actually a very important point for us today.  Micah says “the Lord will give them up until the time when she who is to give birth has borne.”  In other words, there is going to be a time of chaos, in general, and a time of testing and trial for God’s people.  It also tells us that God will intervene when things are in really bad condition.  So, as we continue through the troubled times in which we live, we can understand that God has given everything over to chaos until the time when He intervenes through our Blessed Lady.

Third, Micah speaks of the Messiah Who will “stand firm and shepherd his flock.”  Micah goes on to speak of the greatness of the Lord reaching the ends of the earth, which it has, but it is the next line that is of the greatest importance to us: “He shall be peace.”  He is our peace because He stands firm like an immovable rock.  In the midst of the chaos, He continues to be in our midst.  It is more difficult to find Him and to hear Him when everything is swirling around us, but if we can keep our focus on Him instead of the chaos around us, we can still have interior peace.

In the second reading St. Paul applies the lines from Psalm 40 to our Lord.  For our purposes, the line to highlight says: “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”  Jesus came into this world at a time when things were very tumultuous in the Holy Land.  In many ways, things were similar to what we are experiencing in our world today.  Despite the ferocity of the tempest, Jesus had only one priority: to do the will of His Heavenly Father.  As such, He is our Shepherd Who leads us through all the briars and the brambles of our lives to the quiet place of peace with Him. 

Although there is a lot of craziness on all sides, if we keep our focus on Jesus, He will lead us through the obstacle course with such grace that we will come through unscathed.  The difficulty, however, is keeping our focus on Jesus and being absolutely intent on doing God’s will.  With so many competing voices and so many distractions it is a real challenge not to get sidetracked.  Thankfully, we have the example of many others who have been able to walk this path.

We have all the Saints, but if we look back to the time of our Lord, we hear about several of these heroic figures in the Gospel reading today.  We hear about St. John the Baptist, St. Elizabeth, and our Blessed Lady.  All of them were faithful to God in very trying circumstances.  They, too, lived in a time of upheaval and managed to keep the will of God as their priority.  What St. Elizabeth said to and about our Lady is key for us as we move forward: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” 

Our Lord has not abandoned us; He remains with us like that rock in our midst.  He continues to shepherd us and speak the truth to us.  Our Lady believed what God said and gave herself entirely to Him.  She kept her eyes on the promises of the Lord and never wavered in her faith.  She was small and lowly, therefore, she relied solely on God.  If we can do the same, Jesus will be our Rock, our Shepherd, and our Peace.

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 www.thewandererpress.com.

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