Central idea: Mary, Virgin Most Prudent. Doctrine: The virtue of prudence. Practical application: Growing in prudence.
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Central idea: Mary, Virgin Most Prudent
Reading 1: 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
When King David was settled in his palace,
and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,
he said to Nathan the prophet,
“Here I am living in a house of cedar,
while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
Nathan answered the king,
“Go, do whatever you have in mind,
for the LORD is with you.”
But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?’
“It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.”
- King David wanted to build God a house. God’s reply was, in effect, I will build you a house that will last forever.
- When the author or final editor of the Books of Samuel was writing, Nathan’s prophecy was already a promise to be fulfilled. By then, the line of Davidic kings had failed, the Chosen People were surrounded by enemies, and the nation was about to be or was already destroyed. Therefore, they were awaiting a new anointed king, an heir of David, who would be in a father-son relationship with God, whose kingdom would stand firm forever.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27-29
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
The promises of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”
“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”
- Soon after the reign of Solomon, the faithful ones of Israel had to wait many generations for the Lord to keep his promise to David to establish his throne forever. They had to wait for the appearance of Jesus Christ.
- But those who do not accept that Jesus Christ is Lord will have to wait until Our Lord’s Second Coming to see the proof that God’s covenant to David “stands firm.”
Reading 2 Rom 16:25-27
Brothers and sisters:
To him who can strengthen you,
according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested through the prophetic writings and,
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ
be glory forever and ever. Amen.
- Paul gives glory to God in this doxology or song of praise. A very good but long-kept secret or mystery is now revealed. God is a communion of three loving persons, one of whom, the Son, has become man and redeemed us from sin and death, so long as we say yes through the “obedience of faith.”
- Mary is the first who rendered this “the obedience of faith” in her fiat or “May it be done to me according to your word.”
Gospel: Lk 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
- Luke presents such richness in so few words:
- Mary’s condition as the Immaculate Conception in the angel Gabriel’s words, “full of grace”;
- Christ’s virginal conception by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit;
- Mary’s obedience of faith in her “fiat” or “May it be done to me according to your word”;
- The revelation to Mary (and to us) that her child is the long-awaited heir to David who will rule the people of God forever.
- And the revelation that this Messiah is not just a highly-favored mortal man but the Son of the Most High, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
Doctrine: The Virtue of Prudence
- Prudence or sound decision-making is a cardinal virtue, essential to being a decent human being and to holiness.
- The practice of the virtue of prudence begins by taking counsel, meaning, gathering wise thoughts about the course of action being considered. After that, you make a rational judgment of the best course of action. Finally, you act.
- Sometimes there is very little time to make the decision. At other times there is plenty of leisure. In the first reading, King David had reached a period in his life in which he had ample time to think about things. He told the prophet Nathan his idea to build a temple in Jerusalem for the Ark of the Covenant to dwell in. Nathan immediately said yes, do it. Then, that night, God gave Nathan other counsel for David, which David obeyed.
- When St. Joseph found out that his betrothed was going to have a child, he took council within himself and concluded that the most just or righteous thing to do was to divorce Mary quietly. But then, when the angel enlightened him, he immediately changed his mind. He got better counsel and took it.
- In the Litany of Loreto, we praise the Blessed Virgin Mary with the title Virgin Most Prudent. Mary arguably made the most prudent decision in all of human history by saying yes to God’s plan. This plan of action was made known to her by the angel Gabriel. She took council by thinking about this plan and asking the big question on her mind. When she heard the answer, she quickly reached the best conclusion: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
- How was Mary able to reach such a wise decision so swiftly? She had behind her a lifetime of considering every decision, even the smallest, in the light of God’s will, and with the help of God’s grace, and there was never on her part any part of her that wanted to prefer her own will over against God’s will.
Practical application: Growing in Prudence
- Prudence is first of all a human virtue. Anyone who wants to become more prudent can. We just have to use our heads. As our Lord said, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Lk 14:28). Sitting down and counting the cost is taking counsel. If you rashly make your judgment, and then act upon it, you might only prove yourself to be a fool: “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish’” (Lk 14:29-30).
- Prior to the judgment that a certain course of action will be practically effective, we also first want to be certain it is morally acceptable. So, for example, if you plan to go into business you need to find a line of work that you think you can be successful at and that is also moral. If you are 250 pounds of pure muscle and enjoy physical and mental challenges, you could be an effective bodyguard or personal trainer or police officer or loan shark, but you would need to rule out the last one, since that is immoral.
- Anyone can become more prudent, but we are not just anyone. We are Catholics, children of God, and Temples of the Holy Spirit. So, besides bringing the moral law and reason in, we also want to bring God himself into our decision-making process. So, whenever we have a decision to make, we should place the situation before God in prayer. Sometimes it may be only a quick cry for help. At other times, as in the case of discernment of a vocation, our counsel may take a long time, even years.
- Whenever we have a decision to make, we should use our best human judgment. And if it is appropriate, we should ask advice from others qualified to give it. Yet if God tells us otherwise, we should do as King David and St. Joseph did.
- What is our best means to be prudent? It is to grow in purity of heart, like the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If we have purity of heart we will not entrap ourselves into foolish or evil behavior by preferring our own will (when it is wrong) to God’s will (which is always best).
- Unlike Mary, we are not conceived without Original Sin. Yet we can keep getting rid of our sins through Sacramental confession and our daily struggle to grow in virtues.
- Unlike Mary, we are not full of grace. Yet we have access to sufficient graces through our Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communions, frequent Confessions, and Marital Covenant (if we are married).
- A serious spiritual life also helps us attain purity of heart. This is built by practices like daily prayerful meditation, daily reading of the Sacred Scriptures and other good spiritual reading, regular spiritual direction, and so on.
The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and themes for the Fourth Sunday of Advent:
- CCC 484-494: the Annunciation
- CCC 439, 496, 559, 2616: Jesus is the Son of David
- CCC 143-149, 494, 2087: the “obedience of faith”