The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

4th Sunday of Advent (B)

Throughout the entire Old Testament God prepares a chosen people for the Advent of His Son, both by prophesy and by prefiguration.

For example the great patriarchs of the Old Testament, like Isaac and Jacob and Moses, were all prefigures of Christ and showed by the way they lived their lives what could be expected in the life of the coming Messiah.

The great prophets of the Old Testament, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, pointed out the circumstances that would surround the Messiah - His birth, His life, and His death.

Then, as a final preparation for the Advent of the Son of God into the world, God sent John the Baptist, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, preaching repentance and sorrow for sin, for “the reign of God is at hand”.

The promise which was made to Adam and which was renewed in Abraham was about to be fulfilled. He whom the patriarchs prefigured and the prophets foretold had now entered the world.

In the fullness of time the promises and prophesies were fulfilled. A messenger from God, the Angel Gabriel appeared to a virgin in Nazareth with an offer to become the Mother of God. And when Mary freely accepted God’s proposal she said , "Be it done to me according to thy word," and God became man through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We have to realize that it was God’s choice to initiate the process of Redemption in this manner. This is how He chose to do it. To become man through the free choice of the Virgin Mary.

God didn’t have to come into the world through the Virgin Mary to save us. There are many, many ways in which God could have saved us. He is all powerful.

However, this is the way that God willed it should be and so it was.

He willed to be made man through the free consent of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Now Mary didn’t have to be Immaculately Concieved in order to be the Mother of God. No! God could do it any way that He wanted to. He’s God, after all, and all things are possible to God.

However, it is most fitting that God should be brought into the world through a vessel that was prepared and kept pure and Immaculately conceived.

It didn’t have to be this way, but that is the way God willed it to be and Sacred Scripture confirms that that is the way it was.

It was not because of necessity but rather it was because God chose to do it that way – and so by the will of God and with the free consent of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Word became flesh.

Nine months later He was born in Bethlehem and for thirty years lived at Nazareth.

lmmediately before Jesus began His public life, John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah.

John announced a new era of grace. He told the people that the exodus from Egypt and Babylon were only prefigurations of man's emancipation from sin.

“Repent” was John's cry. However, John's message is also full of joy because it announces a time of God's grace.

It is also quite serious because, having free will, we can still say yes or no to this coming of God’s grace. The Old Testament was now completed. The New Testament had now begun.

He who was foretold now appeared. The Jewish religion was completed. God now walked among men. The Messiah has come.

And just as the Old Testament looked forward to Christ, the New Testament looks back to Him. Jesus divided history in two. And just as the Jewish religion was founded to foretell redemption, Christ founded His Church to retell and to accomplish redemption.

The Church is related to the Jewish religion the same as a flower is related to its bud. The Church is the completion, the perfection, the accomplishment of all that had been foretold.

The Church like the Jewish religion of old looks to the future. Reminding all people of Christ's first coming, it is also must continue to remind everyone that Jesus will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead.

And just as the Old Testament prepared humanity for Christ's first coming, so also is the Church to prepare humanity for this second coming.

And so the Catholic Church’s constant teaching is simply to remind us that we live not for time, but for eternity, so that every day of our life we might prepare for it.

For we know not when the Master will come.

Eight centuries before Christ's birth the Old Testament informs us that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.
That the Messiah will be a great shepherd and king, not only of Israel but of all peoples and His kingdom will extend to the very ends of the earth.

St. Paul instructs his Jewish converts that Christ is truly the Messiah. All the sacrifices of sheep and goats in the Old Testament merely prefigured and foreshadowed His perfect sacrifice to His heavenly Father.

This was the divine plan of redemption. All that was promised in the Old Law was fulfilled.

And when Mary visited Elizabeth the first beatitudes of the New Testament were proclaimed: "Blessed is He who believed that there would be fulfilled what was spoken by the Lord."

And this is the beatitude that is given to us today, the blessedness of all those who have answered the call of John the Baptist and who have prepared themselves during Advent for the spiritual birth of Christ into their hearts.

By preparing our hearts for the birth of the Christ Child, by preparing our hearts to celebrate Christmas, by following the admonition of John the Baptist – by repenting and confessing our sins and by believing in the Good News we have shown that we believe that what God had promised throughout the centuries has been fulfilled. A redeemer has come. We have been redeemed.

And so now we live in the hope of God's further promise: heaven for those who love God with all their mind and and all their heart.

This is the kingdom of God foretold. This is the peace that was promised to all believers. This is the peace that is given to us. The Prince of Peace has come into the world – therefore this is the peace that no man can take it from us.

Deacon Bernard Ouellette

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