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Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B
Homily. Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 88; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38.

Purple Stole and Gospel
Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 88; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

For long periods of Israel´s history, how God would fulfill his promise to David of a dynasty that would last forever (First Reading) – and by way of which he would be father and savior to his people – must have appeared increasingly mysterious. Yet the faithfulness of the Lord´s loving kindness can never be called into question (Psalm). And when, upon Mary´s consent to become the mother of the Messiah, he makes good his promise (Gospel), the mystery revealed to all (Second Reading) is of a king who is at once much more humble and infinitely greater than that long expectation awaited: from heaven and from earth (Entrance Antiphon), he will be called Son of the Most High and his reign will be without end.

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. We cannot do him any favors, even if in our moments of greater generosity we tend to think of ourselves as doing just that. In ways often less clear, but sometimes more painful, than the prophet Nathan´s word, he takes care of teaching us this. 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 (Psalm 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.

With human cooperation. The Lord has this ´bad habit´ of respecting (perhaps more than we would like!) the free will he gave us. From the beginning he has invited, not obliged, our collaboration. What we most need, then, is to form our own ´habit´ of always saying ´Yes´. Of this Mary is the great model.

No decision in all the history of humanity can compare in drama and import with the one she was asked to make. The Fathers of the Church liked to picture all of humankind hanging on her answer, begging her to assent. The circumstances were hardly reassuring. She was just a young teenager. She believed God wanted her to remain a virgin, even in marriage. She lived in a cultural backwater. Her schooling would have been minimal. Moreover, as a faithful monotheistic Jew, she could not possibly understand a proposal involving three divine Persons; the angel´s considerate "explanation", that the "Holy Spirit" would "come upon her" amounted to a non-explanation. But none of these human factors was decisive. That she came through in spite of them stems from four fundamental attitudes. She has unlimited trust in whatever God wills. She does not demand that first she must ´understand´; she accepts that God´s ways, even in their human ramifications, necessarily surpass us. She has no preconceived personal plans that are non-negotiable and to which God´s plan must be adjusted. To know and do his will is the hinge on which her life turns.

Therefore she said: "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say". And the Son of God –himself obedient to his Father´s plan– began to inhabit her womb. God became one of us. Our human nature was raised to a new, incomparable dignity. It is the high point of history. This little girl did more for us than all the other great lights of humanity combined.

Catechesis. The Incarnation (CCC 461-464; 479-486).

This Christmas, we all need to be very clear about the fact that what we do to make it special is simply nothing compared with what God has done. Christmas is his work, not ours. It is his coming, for our salvation. If we focus mainly on the externals – that we and our families and friends provide – then we have missed the point of Christmas. If we make those externals – in these last days of preparation, and in the days of Christmas – so many multi-colored reminders of the loving kindness of the Christ Child who comes among us with his mysterious but totally real presence, then we will be able to approach it all with the deep sense of need and of anticipation that is the condition for genuine, personal encounter with him. Why not propose to inject into our shopping, or cooking, or delivering gifts, or sending cards… a spirituality, a lived intentionality? "I´m going to do this now so that it will lead those I´m doing it for to experience God´s saving love". Then all those ´chores´ can become a spiritual preparation for Christmas.

And recognizing that it is God who gives gifts to us (rather than the reverse), we could ask him that, as his special gift this Christmas, we might learn the fundamental dispositions necessary to become his ´co-workers´ (1Corinthians 3:9), like Mary. Always prepared to shelve my own plans, if it seems God wants something else. Ready to accept his word –mediated to me through the Church – even when I don´t fully ´understand´ or it ´doesn´t make sense to me´. Unconditional trust in his divine plan: the ´big´ plan for all of history, and the ´little´ plan for me, here, today. Possessed of a fundamental principle in life: know his will, carry it out.