Meditation: 4th Sunday of Advent (cycle A)

– Mary opened herself to the action of God

– God approaches man in unimaginable ways

– A response to our desire to be saved

THE VIRGIN MARY had heard with surprise the words of the angel: “Behold, you are going to conceive and give birth to a son; you shall call his name Jesus” (Lk 1:31). But instead of remaining paralyzed before the divine project that was to change her present and her future, she exclaimed with serene conviction: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let everything be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). We are amazed to see that such simple words are the door through which God wanted to enter our world, and they are also the door through which we enter this Christmas week. “’Here’ is the key word of life. It marks the transition from a horizontal life, centered on oneself and one’s own needs, to a vertical life, elevated towards God. “Contemplating” means being available for the Lord, it is the remedy for selfishness, the antidote to an unsatisfied life, in which something is always missing” [1].

“The Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin is pregnant, she will give birth to a son, whom she will call Immanuel” (Is 7, 14), says the prophet Isaiah. A humble woman becomes the Mother of God; an almost unknown people becomes the cradle of the Messiah. That’s how God works. In us too, a seemingly small and faith-filled response can transform our daily lives into a great work of God. In the simplest moments of our daily life, we can say yes to the God who comes: in a chance meeting with a friend, in the sometimes monotonous course of working hours, or in a pleasant evening with family.

In these last days of Advent, we may have been busy tinkering with our nativity scenes. We moved a lost sheep facing the Child, or we tried to make the dry moss in the meadow beside the stable more welcoming. These are small gestures which we want to be an image of the faith with which we wish to respond to the constant and subtle calls of God. Come, Lord, do not delay, we need you and we want to prepare for your coming with love.

“WHO CAN climb the mountain of the Lord and stand in the holy place? (Ps 23:3). These words full of hope express one of the deepest desires of the psalmist: to dwell in the house of God and contemplate his face. However, the people of Israel knew that this was an impossible desire. Indeed, they believed that those who saw God would die immediately, for man could not resist the contemplation of such greatness. This is why we are so surprised that Almighty God wanted to show his face in the tender figure of a child. We would like to approach Bethlehem these days with two feelings that complement each other: reverence for the mystery and the affection that welcomes it into the warmth of a home.

God has been far more generous than the human heart could have imagined. He not only wanted to look down on us with affection from heaven and visit us for a while: God became one with us and became so involved in his vineyard that he went so far as to say to us: “I am the vine, and you are the branches. He who abides in me and in whom I abide bears much fruit” (Jn 15:5). Everything can be nourished by the sap that Christ gives us in his sacraments, in prayer, in his constant closeness. He wanted to live a human life, so that our human life could acquire a divine dimension.

“Jesus was born in a cave in Bethlehem, says the scripture, because there was no room for them in the hostelry — I am not deviating from theological truth if I tell you that Jesus is still looking for a home in your heart” [2]. Every day we have the opportunity to follow this suggestion of Saint Josemaría and open our hearts to Jesus. Faith is not just a set of truths, nor a set of abstract rules to follow. To believe in God is first of all to welcome his Son within us and to share our whole life with him. In short, to convert our soul in Bethlehem. If, thanks to the affection of Mary and Joseph, and the warmth of a few sheep, he was able to feel at ease in the poverty of this stable… Why shouldn’t he also feel happy in our hearts, if we try to offer him the joys and sorrows of each of our days?

“Heavens, distill your dew from on high, let justice rain down from the clouds, let the earth open up, bring salvation, and then let justice also sprout” (Is 45, 8). The entrance antiphon for this fourth Sunday of Advent expresses the need we feel for a God who saves us. On many occasions, our prayer will be to express from the depths of our hearts this longing for God. Both when we feel our limitations and the pain of our wounds and when we experience joys in small details, we want everything to be imbued with the love of God. We realize that a life with him is radically different from an existence closed in on itself.

The Son wanted to become man to save us. And this salvation can only be explained by his Father’s great love for us. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). In contemplating the child of Bethlehem, how can we not be sure of God’s love for us and of his concern? In all the events that are part of our existence, we can be sure that God speaks to us and saves us.

We can imagine how difficult it must have been for our Mother to see her beloved son born in the poverty of a manger. But even in this event, so dark in the eyes of men, she must have seen the light of God shining. “What is truly great often goes unnoticed and the quiet silence is more fruitful than the frenetic bustle that characterizes our cities” [3]. We can ask him to give us his sensitivity and his faith-filled heart so that we too can perceive God in all the details of our lives. So, just as Saint John the Baptist jumped for joy in his mother’s womb in the presence of the pregnant Virgin, so we will be filled with joy when we remember the birth of Jesus.

[1]. Pope Francis, AngelusDecember 8, 2018.

[2]. Saint Josemaría, ForgeNo. 274.

[3]. Benedict XVI, SpeechDecember 8, 2012.

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Meditation: 4th Sunday of Advent (cycle A)

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