Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A), December 22, 2013, (1) provides insights into the Sunday Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
Central idea: Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God-with-Us. Doctrine: The Incarnation. Practical application: An Act of Faith in the Incarnation.
To view the Lectionary 10 readings, click here.
Central Idea: Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God-with-Us
Reading 1 Is 7:10-14
The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.
- Ahaz was King of Judah and a descendant of David. He was immoral, idolatrous, and even sacrificed one of his sons to Moloch.
- It was the worst of times for Israel, yet God promised a Son of David who would be “God-with-us.”
Responsorial Psalm Ps 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. (7c and 10b) Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
- Human beings desire God to dwell with them, but how can the invisible, immaterial God live with us? He can through the Incarnation.
- What is the requirement for us to actually dwell with God? We must be like God We must have sinless hands and a clean heart and not be filled with vain desires.
Reading 2 Rom 1:1-7
Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,
called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God,
which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh,
but established as Son of God in power
according to the Spirit of holiness
through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him we have received the grace of apostleship,
to bring about the obedience of faith,
for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,
among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- St. Paul has authority to speak because Christ called him to announce the gospel to the Gentiles, to non-Jews. The gospel or “glad tidings” Paul announces is that Jesus Christ is the descendent of David and holy Son of God promised by the Old Testament prophets, like Isaiah. He is Emmanuel, God-with-Us.
- He is established as Lord through his resurrection from the dead.
- The Gentiles are called to belong to him and he brings to us holiness, grace, and peace.
Gospel Mt 1:18-24
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
- St. Paul announced “the gospel about [God’s] Son, descended from David according to the flesh.” Here, the angel explains to Joseph, son of David, that “through the Holy Spirit” Mary’s “child has been conceived in her.”
- St. Paul announced the call to “the obedience of faith” to “belong to Jesus Christ” so as “to be holy.” The angel explains that Joseph is to name this child of Mary and the Holy Spirit “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins,” so they can be holy. Joseph exercises this obedience of faith because “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”
- The virgin Mary conceived and bore a son who is literally God-with-Us and who is named Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.
Doctrine: The Incarnation
- Paul announced the reality of the resurrection of Christ from the dead for our salvation. But before this, the angel Gabriel announced the reality of the living God becoming a living man. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God the Son, “became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man.” (CCC 464)
- In the Incarnation or “becoming flesh” God became man. Jesus Christ is one divine person who has united to himself a complete human nature:
“The Son of God … worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.” (CCC 470)
- This precise definition of the nature of Jesus Christ illuminates how God can be Emmanuel, how God can dwell with us and we can dwell with him.
Practical Application: An Act of Faith in the Incarnation
- Ahaz was disobedient to God. Paul recommends to the Gentiles the “obedience of faith.” Mary and Joseph lived this obedience of faith.
- We live the obedience of faith by believing what God has revealed and living a holy and blameless life, which is always an on-going project.
- As this Advent comes to an end it is good to simply dwell on the thought that the Blessed Virgin Mary carried God, the Christ Child, in her womb.
- We can also do that while we meditate on the traditional “act of faith”:
O my God, I firmly believe that Thou art one God in three Divine Person, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; I believe that Thy Divine Son became man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, who canst neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.