Homily – 4th Sunday of Advent
For thousands of years the people of the Old Testament awaited the coming of the Messiah. Sometimes they became impatient at waiting and then they turned away from God to more immediate gratifications. One example is the time they awaited at the foot of Mt. Sinai for Moses to bring down the 10 commandments, the word of God, to his people. They waited but eventually turned to making idols and worshiping false gods. But God called them back to himself and renewed his covenant with them. Despite the countless infidelities of his people, God has always remained faithful; calling, waiting, seeking the lost.
Prophet after prophet rose up and called the people back. The shepherds went in search of the wandering flock. Some returned, some refused. It is amazing at times that God didn’t just give up. But God’s love is not fickle like ours. Patiently He calls for his Children to return home. He reminds his children that He is faithful to his promises and they will be fulfilled if we are willing to wait patiently for God to move. Not the least of his children are forgotten by God. For as it says in Matthew 18 “It is not his will that a single of these little ones be lost.” As our first reading says “from one too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth from me one who is to be ruler in Israel.” Good things do come in small packages and every single one of us is loved and intended by God.
For every single little one of us has a Divine purpose. From all eternity God willed that we should be and calls us to return to him. Every hair of your head has been counted and God has plans for your welfare and not for your woe. This is the value of every single person. Not a single one is unimportant no matter what people tell you, no matter what you believe yourself, no matter what the government says. You are loved by God and he wants you to return to him.
So our lives then become a time of Advent as well. We patiently await the coming of the Lord. The reason for which we exist is for Him to come but only if we wait patiently. If we, like the Israelites, become impatient and turn toward other gods then our true purpose might go unfilled for all eternity. That purpose is to know, love and serve God in this life and to spend all eternity with him in heaven. But if you have wandered far from the fold, if you are a lost sheep, fear not. The Lord is seeking the Lost. He is crying out for you to return to him. Heed his voice. Cry out to God to save you, surrender your life to him. As our first reading says “He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord, and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.”
For when the sheep cries out to be saved the Good Shepherd answers. He is faithful and nothing will stop him from reaching his sheep: Not time, not distance, Not the infinite distance between humanity and divinity. For God will become man, if he has to, to save his sheep from their sins. He will humble himself to be an infant, dependent on another, born poor in a stable with the animals. He will be hunted as a child by a vicious king. He will flee to a foreign land. He will return and tell them of the Good news. He will heal them, raise them from the dead and shepherd his flock, holding his lambs in his arms. He will be rejected by those he was sent to save and in the end he will go to a brutal and humiliating death to save his sheep from their sins. That is how great a love the Shepherd has for his sheep. That is what he is willing to do if his sheep will simply cry out to be saved. But they must cry out for he will not do so against our will. He will move heaven and earth to save us if only we will cry out.
That is why we have such great hope. And because our hope is in one who is always faithful and has never broken his promises, that is a cause for joy. Joy beyond all telling. Our every longing and desire, hope and dream will be fulfilled if we simply allow ourselves to be saved from our sin by the Shepherd.
This is what the people of God had waited for. This is the reason why the infant John leaped for joy in the womb. From before he was born, John, recognized the Messiah and leaped for joy. This is what causes Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, to cry out “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” She is stunned that the mother of the great shepherd would come to her. And what Joy Mary had at the new life within her. Not only her child but her Lord and her Salvation as well. Elizabeth says “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” God did speak his Word to Mary. It was done unto her according to his word. And His word was a living word. It is the Word. And the word became flesh an dwelt among us. Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and John all knew what this meant and they were filled with joy.
Advent is a time of Joy if we know what we are waiting for. It is a living rosary where each day we reflect on the Joyful Mysteries. Last Sunday the Annunciation, This Sunday the Visitation, Christmas Day the Nativity and before it’s over the other two. It is a time of waiting for the coming of the Lord but also a time of hope. Because that hope is in one who is ever faithful and all powerful it is the cause of our joy. Walk the joyful mysteries with the blessed mother through these days. Pray with the holy family the joyful mysteries in your own family. Discover the joy at the miraculous birth of Emmanuel; God is with us. The birth of Jesus who will save us from our sins.
This is what we are preparing to celebrate. The God of the universe loved us so much, he would humble himself to become man in order to save us from our sins. If only we cry out, our salvation is at hand. If only we answer as Mary did, then the Word of God can be conceived in our hearts and we too will leap for joy. “Be it done unto me according to your word”. That word is The Word. The Word is The Son of God made Man; our life, and our salvation. That is what we celebrate in a few short days. That is what awaits the sheep if simply we cry out “Be it done unto me according to your word.” It is not a terrible thing to surrender your will to joy. You might even find that it is what you have been looking for so long. Cry out the Good Shepherd and he will move heaven and earth to save you because you really are that important to him. And that Divine love, made man, to save us for our sins is what we await, what we hope for and what 2000 years ago was born into the world.