HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B.
HOMILY THEME: “THE ANGEL GABRIEL CAME TO MARY AND SAID, ‘GREETINGS, FAVORED ONE! THE LORD IS WITH YOU.’
THEN MARY SAID, ‘HERE AM I, THE SERVANT OF THE LORD; LET IT BE WITH ME ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD.’”(Luke 1:28, 38)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
EWTN—Eternal Word Television Network—regular ly offers re-runs of a now half-century old series of programs whose speaker and message seems as relevant today as it was when first delivered so long ago. Entitled “Life is Worth Living,” TV and radio celebrity Archbishop Fulton Sheen outshone Hollywood stars of his day. While he died in 1979, he remains vibrantly alive in EWTN’s grainy re-runs.
On this Christmas Eve, Archbishop Sheen offers a reflection on the ever-new, ever-surprising entry of God into our lives: “God walks into your soul with silent step. God comes to you more than you go to him. Never will his coming be what you expect, and yet never will it disappoint.”
In the gospel passage we hear today, the Archangel Gabriel suddenly, silently appears before Mary, declaring that God has chosen her to be his earthly mother. Startled, stunned, Mary can only think to say “Yes.” Then Gabriel leaves as already Jesus—God become flesh—is taking human form within her.
With expectation, Mary experiences the growing magnitude of what she carries within. She wonders why, of all women, it is she who has been chosen. In the mystery of it all, she is awe- struck.
On this Christmas Eve, we, too, stand in expectation, wondering what and who will enter our lives on this great day of birth and re-birth. How will my life become richer? How will my very soul be uplifted? As God comes to earth, how will I move away from earth toward eternity? As we wait in wonderment, let a Buddhist fable serve to assist us:
“A Buddhist monk was walking barefoot down a dusty road when he stepped on something sharp. It stuck in his heel, so after a few steps he stopped to pull it out. Low and behold! It was a very beautifully carved and very valuable gemstone. The monk rinsed it off at a well he was passing, and tossed it in his satchel, along with the partial loaf of bread that was to be his one meal of the day.
“A little further down the road, the monk happened upon a beggar. The beggar spied the partial loaf, leapt in front of the monk, bowed three times and said, ‘O Venerable Sir! I am but a poor starving beggar. Might I have a taste of your bread?’ Whereupon the monk pulled the loaf from his satchel, and before handing it to the beggar, pulled the gem from the crust where it had become imbedded. He then handed the entire loaf to the beggar.
“The beggar saw the gemstone, and pleaded, ‘O, Most Worthy One! I have taken your only meal of the day, and this is not right. I see you have a gemstone, which would relieve me of my situation. May I give you back your bread in exchange for the gem?’ At this, the monk promptly gave the gemstone to the beggar, telling him also to keep the bread. The beggar was ecstatic, and galloped off down the road.
“The monk, noticing it was time for meditation, sat down under a nearby tree. A few minutes later he became aware of the presence of someone, and opening his eyes saw the beggar, who thrust out his hand with the gem, saying, ‘O Venerable One! May I please return the gem to you? I don’t want it!’ The monk asked, ‘What sir, do you want?’ The beggar replied, ‘I want what you have that allowed you to give away everything.’” (Original source unknown) St. Luke wrote, “The angel Gabriel came to Mary and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’”(Luke 1:28, 38)
As simply as that, she gave her whole life away, its hopes, dreams and promises, to possess only the angel’s assurance: “The Lord is with you.” Nothing else was wanted or needed. To be one with God, mother of his son, was heaven come to earth.
As it was for Mary, so it has been for us—and will be again—as Archbishop Sheen said, “God walks into your soul with silent step. God comes to you more than you go to him. Never will his coming be what you expect, and yet never will it disappoint.”
As we gather on the eve of another Christmas, may our prayer echo the words of the poor beggar who pleaded with the wise Buddhist monk: “I want what you have that allowed you to give away everything.” May this prayer, directed to Mary, God’s earthly mother, help to sweep away the clutter of our hearts and minds that God alone might be all we desire and truly need. “The Lord is with you,” announced Gabriel to Mary. “Yes, it’s all I want—all I ever wanted—she responded. As do we.