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Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Homily - The Fourth Sunday of Advent

First Reading - Micah 5:1-4 ©
Responsorial Psalm - 79(80):2-3,15-16,18-19 ©
Second Reading - Hebrews 10:5-10 ©
Gospel Acclamation - Lk1:38
The Gospel of the Day – Luke 1:39-44 ©

The prophet Micah foresaw the coming of the Prince of Peace, of Jesus of Nazareth, who was Joshua bin Joseph, the child of Mary, who Saint Paul called the Christ.

Note well; Micah’s prophecy was not a reading of the future. We know this because the future is not predetermined. God, the creator of the universe, God made us and it free.

Micah’s prophecy is an expression of hope, of trust in the way of love, which he believed all people are called to.

As all prophets must do, Micah called our attention to the troubling times we are facing. There is sorrow and there is pain and there is a deep sense of alienation felt among the people, of isolation from each other and of separation from God.

This is the human condition

As a good prophet does, Micha pointed toward our future, to the hope that the Christ will come, the archetype of peace to which all human should aspire, a peace that all leaders should seek to serve.

It is easy to read things the wrong way, consider the words of the psalmist for today

The psalmist misunderstands the natural unfolding of historical events for the will of God. God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings, God is not the author of our history past, or our future histories; we are.

God is the shepherd of all people, not of Israel only, and not of the Church founded in Christ’s name.

God does not reside on a throne and God is not the general of armies. Armies and kingdoms are human institutions and when we imagine God in the role of emperor or king, price or warrior we do a disservice to God, who created the universe, and everything in it. God who loves all of God’s children with the same equal share of the divine, the infinite and eternal love.

God will not rescue anyone from human the human dilemma, not in this life, whether it is long or short, easy or hard, there is no deliverance from it, save by our own action, and but for the love of our family and friends, or the stranger if we are so fortunate.

Remember this:

God’s face shines on everyone, look for it in the face of your neighbor, in the face of your enemy, in the faces of those who persecute you. God is as much present in them as God is present in you, and where God is present God is present fully.

God did not rescue the Israelites from Egypt. They rescued themselves, and they committed horrible atrocities and considerable crimes along the way. I am not talking about the promises they broke to God, God knew that they would. They murdered and plundered, killed and robbed, put dozens of tribes to the sword along the way.

God forgave them, and loved them anyway.

God did not send the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Ptolemy’s, or the Romans, to punish them.

God did not destroy the temples.

Each of those conquering Empire’s did what they did for their reasons in their own time, just as the armies of Joshua son of Nun did in his.

The only lesson we are to draw from it is this, God will not protect you, or show you favor in this world. We are all subject to the vicissitudes of change and the random nature of change.

It is up to us, God’s children, to love, show mercy, mete justice, and care for those downtrodden. We are called it.

Service is the seal of our baptism, we are called to it. It was the call to service that Jesus heard when he accepted his death on the cross, his life was sealed there too.

Note well:

Saint Paul the Apostle made a tragic error in his early formulation of the purpose of Jesus’ ministry and the reason for his death.

When Jesus said, “God wanted no sacrifice, takes no pleasure in holocausts, or sacrifices for sin, he meant it.

Jesus did not mean to suggest that his own death was the sacrifice God wanted, the purpose of Jesus’ ministry was not that his death become an oblation to God or a holocaust rising to the heavens.

He was murdered plain and simple, it was a political assassination.

Know this:

Jesus stood in the tradition of the prophets against the cult of animal sacrifice, because he knew that the cult of sacrifice was a corrupt practice, one that burdened the poor, bankrupting them to fatten the wealthy.

That is why he turned the tables of the money changers over in his tirade at the temple.

That is why the priests plotted his murder and conspired with the Romans to achieve it.

God, the creator of the universe, God takes no pleasure in blood sacrifices and burnt offerings. They are a contrivance, witchcraft, ineffectual and meaningless. 

The only sacrifice God desires, is the sacrifice of service, offered in love, engendering hope.

Your loving service to your neighbor, is the offering God wants from you, service which furthers the ends of peace, fosters trust, seeks justice, and teaches a love for the law of God that was written in your heart.

Pay attention:

The writers of Mark’s gospel begin their narrative when Jesus was a man, an adult at the beginning of his public ministry.

The early Christians wanted more, and so the authors of Luke went back in time and narrated a fable about his conception and birth. In this fable, or myth (whatever you think it should be called) they attempted to tie up various loose ends in the stories that were being told about Jesus.
They wanted to unite different factions of the Christian movement in that was already falling apart just a half-century after his death. This particular narrative from today’s reading, was meant to appeal to the followers of John the Baptist.

It brought forth the notion that Jesus and John were actually cousins, and that even though John was older, he was a follower of Jesus from the time he was in the womb.

Just as John’s mother was subordinate to Mary.

It is a story, a fable, a myth; the whole thing is a fiction.

It is an unfortunate fiction, because a great deal of theology and doctrine has been hung from these exercises in make-believe, and such fictions were in themselves naked political calculations meant to manipulate the burgeoning movement.

The succeeding Gospels each in their turn reached back further in time. The writers of Matthew inserted a confusing genealogy; tracing Jesus’ heritage back to Adam, through David on his father’s side, and yet, at the same time, the Church insists that we believe Joseph was not his biological father.

The writers of John begin their narrative with the beginning of time itself, and the creation of the universe.

It is sad to note, that over the centuries, what people believed about these fables, ended up being the cause of extreme, bitter and deadly partisan conflict among Christians, setting  aside the actual teaching of Jesus; to love your enemies, and pray to for those who persecute you.

Remember this when you pray; remember the errors of the church, the fictions of Luke, the mistakes of Paul, the carelessness of the psalmist, and remember the hope of Micah, that the proper expectation of the faithful is for the reign of peace.

First Reading - Micah 5:1-4 ©

He Will Stand and Feed His Flock with the Power of the Lord

The Lord says this:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel; his origin goes back to the distant past, to the days of old.

The Lord is therefore going to abandon them till the time when she who is to give birth gives birth.

Then the remnant of his brothers will come back to the sons of Israel.

He will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord, with the majesty of the name of his God.

They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land.

He himself will be peace.

Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 79(80):2-3,15-16,18-19 ©

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hear us,
  shine forth from your cherubim throne.
O Lord, rouse up your might,
  O Lord, come to our help.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

God of hosts, turn again, we implore,
  look down from heaven and see.
Visit this vine and protect it,
  the vine your right hand has planted.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

May your hand be on the man you have chosen,
  the man you have given your strength.
And we shall never forsake you again;
  give us life that we may call upon your name.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

Second Reading - Hebrews 10:5-10 ©

God, Here I Am! I Am Coming to Obey Your Will

This is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin; then I said, just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book, ‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

Gospel Acclamation - Lk1:38

Alleluia, alleluia!

I am the handmaid of the Lord:
let what you have said be done to me.


Gospel - Luke 1:39-45 ©

Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

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