HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR C 2021

HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR C 2021

MICAH 5.2-5/PSALM80/ HEB 10:5-10/LK.1:39-45

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai

MARY’S VISITATION

In the Gospel reading, Mary travels to the hill country of Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth. This visit brought joy to the home of Elizabeth. We too can be agents of divine visitation to others, bringing them joy, love and peace. Season of Christmas is a period of visitation, try to visit your relatives and friends, share with them and make them happy. Find time to visit the sick or those in prison. Be an agent of God’s love. Visitation is vivifies; isolation stultifies and destroys.

During this season while you make out a schedule to visit people try and visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He is the reason for the season. To visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is like being under the sun, you do nothing to the sun but the sun does something to you. Visit and be blessed. More so, before you set out for a visit ask the Holy Spirit to lead you; Mary was first of overshadowed by the Holy Spirit before going to visit Elizabeth. She is our model and teacher. This Christmas visit someone!

Today’s gospel also captures the culture of greeting and its far-reaching effects. Mary greeted Elizabeth and the Bible says “as soon as your greetings entered my ears the Child in my womb leaped for joy.” Greeting is a good thing. The Church recognizes the importance of greetings and so at the beginning of the Mass the presiding priest greetings in the following words; “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Again, the Church also invites us to greet each other with a sign of peace (Waving or a simple bow). Beloved, we need to revive the culture of greeting in the society; especially among our children. Mary the Mother of our Lord greeted Elizabeth; swallow your pride and greet somebody cheerfully today.

Those who are humble are ready instruments in the hands of God. The first reading tells us how God favoured the humbled. The birth of Christ took place in Bethlehem – the insignificant village now the birthplace of the Lord’s restoration. The power of God manifests itself through weakness. God does not reject the lonely and the poor. Just as he remembered Elizabeth he never forgets the poor and weak. Precisely because of this, the second reading calls us to be ready and obedient as Jesus, so that God can manifest his love through our weakness.

Again, after Mary’s greetings, Elizabeth exclaimed with a loud cry saying; “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Pazhayampallil tells us that Mary is blessed; she is blessed because the fruit of her womb is blessed. Every mother on earth is blessed, because the fruit of the womb is a blessing. All of us are blessed, Eph.1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places….. and he chose us in Christ to be blameless.” Each time we say the “Hail Mary” we reaffirm this blessing and participate in it. Beloved in Christ count your blessings, not your problems.

In addition, the Angel Gabriel said to Mary “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God”. In these last days of the year with so many anxieties and fears; the Angel says to us “Do not be afraid”. Like Mary we must put aside any fear, in order to take Christ to the world, whether as students, teachers or parents. Mary brought Christ to Elizabeth in her heart and in her womb. Let us bring Christ to everyone we meet. Do not be afraid to speak the truth. Many of us have actually found favour with God but we are yet to respond to that grace. We live in fear with our gifts; fear is a serious attack against faith. Let us have faith and defeat our fears.   

LET US PRAY

O God, who through the child-bearing of the holy Virgin graciously revealed the radiance of your glory to the world, grant, we pray, that we may venerate with integrity of faith the mystery of so wondrous an Incarnation and always celebrate it with due reverence. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 Fr. Paul Oredipe 
Mary’s Example of Faith and Charity,  our Inspiration 
 
During the Advent season, the Gospel lessons draw our attention especially to three people: John the Baptist is very prominent; Isaiah, because his lessons are read every day during Advent in the weekday readings; and Mary, Jesus’ mother. 

Jesus was not putting His mother down when that woman tried to praise him, but He was reminding those people and all of us that Mary is the one, more than any other, who heard the word of God, kept it, observed it and followed it. 

You find that in today’s Gospel account of the Annunciation.  Remember Mary’s answer when the angel asked her to be God’s mother.  She was doubtful at first, worried and concerned.  But then, when the angel reassured her that this is what God wants, she said: “Be it done to me according to thy word.”  God’s word was primary in her life.  Whatever was God’s word, that was what she would do. 

In today’s gospel, Elizabeth praises Mary, not because she is carrying Jesus in her womb, but because Mary trusted, believed and acted on the word of God.  That is why Elizabeth called Mary blessed.  It was the word of God that became important in the life of Mary.  She listened to and followed God, thus she became the model disciple.  As disciples of Jesus, the most important thing we can do and must do is listen deeply to God’s word.  And not just listen, but as Jesus said: hear the word of God, observe it and carry it out.  Live it. 

Our second lesson today makes clear how important that is.  Animal sacrifices and burnt offerings were prominent in the Jewish religion of that era.  But the author of this letter tells us that Jesus did not come to offer one more sacrifice; the sacrifice Jesus offered was His life.  This is why on entering the world Jesus said: “You did not desire sacrifice and offerings.  You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings.”  (Jesus was speaking to God and the author quoted from Psalm 40)  “But ears open to obedience you gave me.  Then I said:  ‘Here I am.  It was written of me in the scroll, I will do your will, O God.'” 

For Jesus, then, the most important thing is to be obedient to God’s word, and obedience means listening deeply to that word and observing it.  That is what God wants more than anything else.  Even coming here to celebrate this Eucharist, if we are not listening to God’s word and following it, our coming here means nothing.  That is a very important message for us to hear. 

 Why do we come here every week?  To celebrate the Eucharist and to receive Jesus in communion, yes.  But also, and just as important, to hear God’s word and to open our hearts to that word.  To let that word enter deeply into us and to change us, transform us. 

“Here I am, O God.  I have come to hear your words and to do it.”  Perhaps we need to ask ourselves how seriously we take this part of our discipleship.  Do we spend a little time reading the lessons before we come, so we are ready to truly hear them in the midst of this celebration?  Do we continue to reflect on them during the week so that the word of God continues to form us, shape us, transform us and guide us?  A true disciple of Jesus is one who says as Jesus said:  “My ears are open to obedience.  Here I am to do your will, O God.” 

The word of God also clearly demands justice.  When Jesus began His public life He said:  “The Spirit of God is upon me.  God sent me to proclaim Good News to the poor, to go to the poor, first of all, to break the yoke of injustice and to set the downtrodden free.”  This is why Jesus came.  To bring justice. 

One thing that is associated with the celebration of Christmas everywhere is giving.  Christmas is the feast of giving.  Christmas is the one time in the year when everyone is sure to give and receive a present, even if it is only a Christmas card.  People spent a lot of time and money shopping for the perfect Christmas gift. 

For at Christmas we celebrate the mystery that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).  God gives, and the people of God give, and that is Christmas. 

If Christmas is the feast of giving, then the question of what to give and how to give becomes very important.  After all, what is worth doing is worth doing well.  How can we improve on the quality of our giving?  How can we improve on the quality of our Christmas celebration?  Today’s Gospel reading helps us to answer some of these questions. 

In today’s Gospel, we read the story of Mary visiting with Elizabeth.  What gift did Mary bring to Elizabeth?  We are not told that she brought foodstuff, although she might as well have brought some.  We are told she brought just one thing: herself.  She gave Elizabeth the gift of her very presence. 

And, dear friends, this is the best and the hardest gift of all.  It is easy to send flowers, it is easy to send a parcel, but to give the gift of ourselves, to make out the time to be with somebody, that is the gift that many people long for but do not receive at Christmas.  Following Mary’s example in today’s Gospel story, we must, in addition to the flowers and parcels, give of ourselves, our presence, our time.  We must find the time to visit and be with people.  This is the greatest gift because its value cannot be calculated in terms of money. 

Our God could have sent some kind of a messenger, angelic or human, to bring about our redemption.  However, God sent His son.  Jesus came and dwelt among us and His physical presence was a gift, a grace of such magnitude that over 2015 years later we still celebrate that coming the presence with wonder and joy.  There are some in our community for whom the grace of presence has special meaning: the sick, the lonely, the dying and the alienated … those who have turned society off. 

Sometimes we are afraid to visit them because we do not know what to say.  Jesus tells us that we do not have to say anything.  Our presence speaks more eloquently than words.  The real message is that we love them.  

Another point we can make out of Mary’s gift to Elizabeth is that one should give not according to one’s convenience, but according to the needs of the receiver.  It was not convenient for Mary to travel the lonely, dangerous road from Galilee to the hills of Judea.  It was certainly for her an uphill task.  But Elizabeth needed a helping hand.  She was six months pregnant and would no longer be able to go and draw water from the village well, to look after the crops in her garden and the animals in her farm.  She would no longer be able to go to the market to do her shopping. 

So Mary, as soon as she learned that Elizabeth was six months pregnant, went with haste and stayed with her for about three months, meaning, until she gave birth.  Mary gave to Elizabeth what she needed when she needed it.  That is the perfect gift. 

As we approach the day when Jesus became present to us, I suggest that we ask ourselves: is there someone in my family or among my acquaintances who is lonely, who is sick, who is estranged from me or possibly alienated from everyone for whom my presence might make a difference?  If so, pay that visit, give that gift, offer the grace of your presence.  Even if it is turned down, you have still offered the gift.  And He who came to be present among us will know it. 

Do you know one thing everybody needs today?  Everybody needs encouragement.  Everybody needs the interior peace and joy that comes from the Holy Spirit.  This is what Mary’s visit did for Elizabeth.  Mary’s visit was an inspiration to Elizabeth. 

When we visit people this Christmas, let us try to bring some inspiration into their lives, let us seek to bring them closer to God, and let us try to share with them the Spirit of God in us, the Spirit of consolation, of courage, of peace and joy, just as Mary. 

If we can hear the word of God and keep it, as Mary the model disciple did, we perhaps will experience something marvelous within our own hearts. 

Notice that the first reading has a very beautiful conclusion.  Micah is talking about a shepherd who will come from the tiny city of Bethlehem.  The shepherd, of course, is Jesus, the word of God.  Micah concludes this passage by saying: “He is peace.”  The word of God is peace. 

If we can be open to the word of God, observe it and keep it, that word will transform us and we will know peace deep within our hearts.  I can think of no other gift we could receive at Christmas that would be more important than to have the word of God, who is peace, come fully into our hearts. 

DO YOUR BEST, and leave the rest.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  

Fr. Stephen Udechukwu
Reciprocate God’s love at Christmas

For the past four weeks now, we have been preparing for the great visit of God to our world. Hence the words of the letter to the Hebrews are carefully chosen this last Sunday of advent to remind us of the real meaning of incarnation. It reminds us of the fact that it was out of infinite love that God created the world and all it contains; a kind of love which our finite minds cannot even understand; love which should and must be reciprocated. God’s love for us is so great that St. Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 that “God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and John 3:16 says that “for God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” What love?. Ordinarily, it is very difficult for one to die for someone who is righteous not to even mention someone who is a sinner. But this was not difficult for God to do because 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love and it was out of this love that he created us and this love is everlasting as seen in Jeremiah 31:3. God created us because he wants to share his love with us, he had no need of us because there is basically nothing we can add to the person of God.

Ordinarily, every human being wants the love he shows to others to be returned back to him or her and that is why people find it difficult to obey Jesus’ injunction in Luke 6:27-30 which invites us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Rather many of us say words like “he/she does not deserve my love” all because the person has not reciprocated. Our God is not a man who will stop loving us if we fail to love him back for Mathew 5:45 says that “He makes his sun to shine on both the wicked and the good and gives rain to both the just and the unjust”.

However, even at this, he wants us to show him that we love him; he wants us to reciprocate his love and that is why Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:5 “you shall love the Lord your God with all your hearts, with all your soul and with all your strength.” And in the gospel of St. Luke 17:11-19 after Jesus showed love to the ten lepers by healing them, one of them, the Samaritan amongst them, went back and reciprocated God’s love; he returned God’s love. He threw himself on his face before Jesus and gave him thanks and then Jesus asked “where are the other nine”. Jesus was not happy because the other nine failed to reciprocate his love.

In our gospel reading today St. Luke describes how Mary reciprocated God’s love by making a visit to her cousin Elizabeth to render help to her in her pregnant state. When the angel was announcing the mysteries to the Virgin Mary, he also told her that an old and barren woman had conceived. This was to show that God can do everything that pleases him. But when Mary heard this, she hurried off to the hill country not because she did not believe the prophecy, or was uncertain about the messenger or doubted, but because she was eager to carry out a duty of charity; she was eager to reciprocate God’s love. Mary’s anxiety to visit her cousin shows her wish to be of assistance to her during her pregnancy, but above all her desire to rejoice with her and share her joy.

Few days from now we shall be celebrating another Christmas. It is another opportunity for us to reciprocate God’s love by sharing love and joy with others because Hebrews 13:16 tells us that “sacrifices of this kind are pleasing to God”. It is one of those best times to heed to the words of Isaiah 58:7 which encourage us “to share our food with the hungry…give clothes to those who need and do not hide from those who need our help. And then proverb 22:9 assures us that we will be blessed when we are generous to others. Let us therefore show love to God at this Christmas; let us reciprocate God’s love at this Christmas by showing love to those around us. May grace of Christ continue to abide with us both now and forever. Amen.

HAPPY SUNDAY AND GOD BLESS YOU.

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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