2Samuel 7:1-5.8b-12.14a.16; Ps.89; Rom.16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
We have three homily notes here; kindly scroll down the page and be blessed. Compliments of the season.
Fr. Paul Oredipe: Mary’s Yes – Faith and Obedience – Our Example and Inspiration
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: The Annunciation and you
Fr. Evaristus Okeke: God comes to save us not to pay us!
Fr. Paul Oredipe:
Mary’s Yes – Faith and Obedience – Our Example and Inspiration
God saves. David wanted to do something for the Lord: build Him a house. He had not understood that it is always God who does-for-us, not we who do-for-God. It is we, who are needy. God has no needs. Having achieved all this in his own home, built of cedar, the great King David conceived a plan to build a house for the Lord – in a way the first stirrings among the people of Israel of a desire for a Temple.
King David’s adviser, Nathan the prophet, at first endorsed the king’s idea, but that very night, we are told, in the Second Book of Samuel, God intervened to prevent the plan.
King David must have felt more than a twinge of annoyance that God Himself had seized the initiative and announced, through Nathan, that he would provide a House of Prayer when he had established the People of Israel more firmly in their own land.
This Old Testament reading is used in today’s liturgy to remind us that the initiative should always lie with God. The Temple would not be built, until King Solomon’s reign – God’s time. It would be built, according to the Divine plan, not the faulty schemes of flawed human beings. King David had to accept – perhaps at first with regret – that he would not be the architect of God’s house.
Our salvation is always His initiative, always totally gratuitous, and always surpasses human logic. Salvation does not come from man. Unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor labor in vain (cf. Ps 127:1). Thus, nine months before the first Christmas, he alone is responsible for approaching a specific young woman unknown outside her obscure village, showering her with unmerited favors, proposing to her a plan as outrageous as the Incarnation, and making its realization contingent upon her freely given consent. That is why today, in this final weekend of Advent, our attention is drawn to Mary. We hear the beautiful account of the annunciation.
God did not impose salvation on the human race. He invited one person, Mary, to stand in for all Israel and all humanity and say “yes” to his plan of salvation. He did not impose motherhood on Mary, and could never have been contented with a mere physical availability. If Mary were to be the mother of the Son of God, it must be a motherhood that extended spiritually to the whole reality of God’s intentions.
The invitation to rejoice, given to all Israel, and made personal to Mary, was an invitation to enter more fully into the wonder and the joy of a mystery of love that can only be understood in the light given us by God. Mary was given this special grace. That is why St Leo the Great could say openly: “The virgin of the royal line of David was chosen to be pregnant with an offspring both human and divine, whom she had first conceived in her mind before conceiving in her body.”
God did not want Mary to be a passive part of His plan. He wanted her to embrace it actively with all the force and intensity of her being. Her response was asked for. Pope John Paul II, commenting on this moment in the history of humanity says: “Never in human history did so much depend, as it did then, upon the consent of one human creature”.
Mary agreed to receive the action of God. Her “Yes” did not bring about the incarnation of the Son of God, but it allowed it to happen in accordance with the will of God. This “Yes” (let it be), this yielding to God, is a model of every Christian life. She yielded in a powerful act of surrender and placed her whole self at God’s disposal. Mary did not just say ‘Yes’ to God on only one occasion. She had to consistently confirm that ‘Yes’ many times during her life.
We cannot bring about our salvation – this is a work of God – but we must agree to it. We cannot produce works that bring life to others, but we can agree to let the Lord work in and through us. This is what is meant by a life of faith – to keep our ears and hearts open to willingly receive and lovingly accept God’s will.
Mystified, uncomprehending, Mary did not remonstrate (protest) like others before her had done. Moses had said: “Send anyone but me!” Gideon said: “I am weak, you will have to give me some sign!” Isaiah cried: “Woe is me, I’m wretched!” Jeremiah said: “But I’m too young! Zechariah said: “My wife is too old!”
Like them, we too tend to believe that God can work miracles in other people – but not in ourselves. But, listen to Mary’s response, a virgin who’s just been told she is going to conceive a child. She just asks ‘How?’ No ifs or buts, no worrying about the past or the future, simply: ‘How are you going to do it?’
Unlike the rest of us who put such limits on God in our lives, she understands the greatness of God and believes His power can transform her simple, ordinary human life. Thus, she is the first human being to hear the salvation message of the gospel. And not only is she the mother of the Messiah, she is also the first disciple.
The Annunciation is the moment when our Lady is given to know the vocation which God planned for her from eternity. The annunciation to Mary and incarnation of the Word constitute the deepest mystery of the relationship between God and men and the most important event in the history of mankind. God becomes man and will remain so forever. Such is the extent of His goodness and mercy and love for all of us. And yet, on the day when the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assumed frail human nature in the pure womb of the Blessed Virgin, it all happened quietly, without fanfare of any kind.
St. Luke tells the story in a very simple way. We should treasure these words of the Gospel and use them often, for example, practicing the Christian custom of saying the Angelus every day and reflecting on the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. As we come now to the final week of Advent, we are invited to consider Mary’s example and inspiration. As the angel announced, the coming of the Messiah, who would establish the final reign of God, was to occur first of all in the life of Mary. Until the Lord comes again, the reign of God will continue to be established in a hidden way in the lives of those who, like Mary, consent to receive personally the announcement of the gospel, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, allow themselves to be a sort of throne or temple within which Jesus can take up residence.
In the First Reading, we heard about David, in spite of his personal and public life, wanting to build a temple for God. But instead of David building a temple (house) for God, God will build a “house,” an everlasting dynasty for David.
The Gospel records the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. Like the temple in Old Testament days, Mary was overshadowed by the power of the Most High and became his dwelling-place. The “shadow” is a symbol of the presence of God. When Israel was journeying through the wilderness, the glory of God filled the Tabernacle and a cloud covered the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 40:34-36). And when God gave Moses the tablets of the Law, a cloud covered Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:15-16); and also, at the Transfiguration of Jesus the voice of God the Father was heard coming out of a cloud (Luke 9:35).
Like Mary, each of us is greeted by God, and called upon, first to conceive Christ in our hearts by faith and by obedience to the Word, to nurture with love the Christ-life within us, and then bring Him forth into the world around us, to make Him visible to the world through the Christ-likeness of our way of life in what we say and in what we do.
Do we give consent for the Lord Jesus to dwell in our lives and exercise in us His kingly rule? As we do so, the kingdom of God is made that much firmer upon the earth.
Let us pray today that, just as Mary’s ‘Yes’ opened the door for the salvation of the world, a new door to deeper faith and commitment may be opened for us; and at the same time pray for those in our world who sit in darkness and unbelief.
May we become a light for them. May Mary’s faith, in God’s Word and her obedience to what He asked of her, lead us to a similar act of faith and obedience, as we welcome Jesus into our lives this season of Christmas.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:
Bring forth Christ
Annunciation simply means announcement. Nine months before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary to announce the conception of the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. The Gospel reading simply narrates the annunciation of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ by Archangel Gabriel to Mary. The annunciation was to prepare Mary to bring Christ into our world. For that reason, the angel told Mary five basic things she must know. We too need to know these five things if we want to bring forth Christ to our world today.
The angel said to Mary “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” These angelic words of greeting recorded in this biblical passage forms the opening words of one of the most cherished prayers in Catholic Church referred to as the “Hail Mary.”To hail is to greet, the angel greeted her and reassured her of God’s presence. Whenever, we say the Hail Mary we enter into this greeting and develop fuller confidence that God is with us. The angel described her as full of grace; beloved if you think that grace is necessary today call on her for intercession. Thus, no one can bring Christ into our world without grace.
Secondly, the Angel Gabriel said to Mary “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.” Like Mary we must put aside any fear, in order to bring Christ forth. We know that the demands are tough but do not be afraid to permeate the society with the presence of Christ. Today Christians have become too fearful and as a result of that they are bringing embarrassment to the faith. They believe nearly every preacher on the street. While some are afraid to tell the truth; others don’t want identify as Catholics. Others are not just afraid but equally ashamed to bring Christ forth.
Thirdly, the Angel said to Mary “ 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.” These words were already prophesied in the first reading, the bible says that David’s plan and prayer point was to build a befitting house for God but God’s plan was better. God promised to build David a house that will last forever. A house that will last forever definitely does not refer to the works of block and cement. In fact it does not refer to the temple of Jerusalem because years later the temple was destroyed. The house that will last forever is a spiritual temple, it is a spiritual kingdom which has no end. The kingdom of men has an end but the kingdom of God has no end. Thus, the gospel says “of his kingdom there will be no end.” Beloved, let be part of this kingdom that has no end; life is too short, life has an end but in Christ there is no end to life, he is eternal and he gives eternal life.
Fourthly, the angel also said to Mary “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.” Beloved, we need the Holy Spirit. The annunciation would have been meaningless if the Holy Spirit had not come. As a young woman from Nazareth, Mary felt inadequate; she continues a long list of people in the Bible who felt inadequate (Moses, Rahab, David, Jonah, Naomi and many others). Therefore, she asked in Luke 1:34 “how shall this be, since I knew no man.” the Angel said the Holy Spirit will overshadow you. Beloved in Christ, you may not know anybody but just know God and you shall be highly favoured; you may not know anybody for that job just get on your kneels and establish a relationship with your God and you shall be highly favoured. You may be inadequate but when the Holy Spirit overshadows you he makes you adequate. Listen, before the descent of the Holy Spirit many of the disciples were incompetent and repeatedly failed but when the Spirit came upon them he made the incompetent competent and the incredible credible, he made the feeble strong and gives power to the faints. The Holy Spirit gives the supernatural power for the supernatural life in Christ.
Lastly, the Angel said to Mary “nothing will be impossible for God”. The angel said this after he had told Mary about Elizabeth’s favour. Beloved, do we still believe that with God all things are possible. Do you ever feel weak and vulnerable? Do you have dreams that seem impossible? With God all things are possible.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke:
God comes to save us not to pay us!
Bible Guide: _“…Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord…”_ (Lk.1:38).
On the first Sunday of advent, we mentioned that from on the 17th of December, we enter into the second part of Advent season wherein we prepare for the immediate coming of the Lord at Christmas. Before now, the liturgy has been focusing our minds on the second coming of Christ. On this fourth Sunday of advent, the readings set to reposition our minds as regards preparing for the Lord. To prepare for the Lord, we must be doing something.
However, we need to have the consciousness that whatever we do in preparation for the Lord is not a favour done to the Lord but our attempt to reciprocate the Love God has already shone us. Without this proper mindset, many things will go wrong. We cannot do God a favour so that he becomes indebted to us in appreciation. The Lord comes to save us not to pay debts or reciprocate favour done to him.
This is the message the Lord passed across to King David through Prophet Nathan in the first reading of today. David recognized that the Lord was responsible for the all the victories he has gained from the enemies roundabout. He observed that he was living more comfortably than the ark of the Covenant; and so, he sought to build a befitting place for the ark of God. But the Lord refused. What could be wrong with David’s intention?
David’s intention was motivated by two factors: to appreciate God and to make God more comfortable. The first is noble but the second is not. When you make someone more comfortable, you are doing the person a favour for which he/she becomes indebted to you. No man can give God comfort. That explains why God, through Nathan, spoke of his greatness to David. The summary is that the Lord is so great that we cannot really give him anything. Whatever we give to God was given to us by God; so when we give to God, we are not doing him any favour.
However, since David’s intention was also motivated by thanksgiving, God still blessed him for desiring to build a house for him. Are there not persons who feel entitled to some level of respect or recognition in the Church from the Priests and parishioners just because they have done one or two things for the Parish? The moment they don’t get the desired respect or special treatment, they begin to bark as though their favour have been greeted with ingratitude.
The priests are ministers of God. When you begin to make demands on them for whatever good you have done for the parish, then you are seeking to turn them to slaves. Though it is not possible to enslave God, it is abominable to attempt it at all. All of us are investing in our eternity by giving of ourselves to God. Therefore, no one can indebted to you for making an investment that you yourself will reap.
In the gospel reading, Mary teaches us how to give with a sense of appreciation. When the angel Gabriel visited her, he told her that the Lord demands of her not any material thing but her whole life as the Mother of the Saviour. Mary could have negotiated with the Angel on what the Lord will give to her in return for abandoning her will and embracing the will of God. Or, she would have accepted the message with the mindset that henceforth life will be for her a bed of roses. She did none of these. She accepted the angel’s message and saw the giving up of her will as a privilege given to her by God. This necessitated her singing the Magnificant: “My Soul glorifies the Lord…the Almighty has done great things for me, Holy is his name…”
The fact is that God will always reward whatever is done on account of him. But then, he wants us to always act in faith not in expectation. When we act in expectation, we actually shortchange ourselves because our request will not be as rich as what God would have given to us on his own. If Mary wanted to negotiate with the Angel, she would not have imagined to ask to be assumed into heaven or to be crowned the queen of heaven and earth.
Beloved, in few days to come, our long expected Messiah will come to us. His coming should elicit in us only a sense of gratitude. No doubt, we have done much spiritually, charitably and otherwise in preparation for him; yet it should not be our sole aim to report to him how much we have done or to expect that life will become all rosy for us henceforth. So, should things go wrong, do not say: “after all my efforts in being a good Christian”, rather say: “I know my redeemer liveth”.
God will always save us not because he ought to but because he loves to. God Bless You!