Readings: (1st: Ish 7, 10-14; Ps: 23, 1-6; 2nd: 1, 1- 7; Gos: Mtt 1, 18-24)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent and just three days from now our expectations shall be fulfilled and our efforts and patience justified by the birth of the Messiah whose coming we have earnestly and eagerly longed for. These three days calls for more caution and vigilance, else we might be caught napping. Therefore, we should be readier than we have ever been, fill our lamps with oil and be ready for the arrival of the Groom and Master (Mtt 25, 1-13). We must at this juncture not emulate the actions of the five foolish virgins. Rather, we should hearken to the voice of wisdom which beckons us: “be ready for your salvation is close at hand” (Rom 13, 11). One of my professors during my study of Philosophy would always tell us: “Beware and careful about the introduction and the conclusion of any book or write up.” I have tested this saying, and experience has shown that it is true. These are critical points in reading a book as well as in every other aspect of life. We may start well waiting for the Lord’s arrival but if we do not take time, our waiting might be in vain as was the case of the five foolish virgins. God forbid! So, as we have followed patiently this season, we must also these three last days be more vigilant.
The sign that God revealed finally on this last Sunday and week of Advent is highly significant. This is because it is shows that God’s choice rested on the house of David which was highly favoured to bear the Emmanuel, God-Is-With-Us. However, Mary’s child was to belong to all of us and to all nations. Therefore, you and I are one of the nations who by the loving and trust worthy invitation of God belong to Jesus Christ. Hence, in the first reading of this Sunday through a brief dialogue which ensued between the God and king Ahaz, God revealed to us one of the greatest signs ever to be made known to humankind: “A maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means God-Is-With-Us!” It is therefore important to note that this sign was revealed after king Ahaz humbled himself and refused to put God to test. The lessons we are to learn from this are enormous. First, we must allow God to be God without poking or trying to preempt him. Second, we must learn to trust not only God’s good sense of judgment but his ability to decide what is good for us. Third, we need not run after signs anymore because the Lord God of Hosts Himself has made known to us and the entire humanity at large the fullness of signs or revelation in his only son Jesus Christ. This is what he has done for us this season.
Both the 2nd reading and the gospel of today are narratives about how Christ was born or about his life. They are testimonies of how God fulfilled his promise to us his people thereby proving that the sign he gave to us were not a product of mere flatus vocis (empty words). They are therefore an assurance that our God is equal to the task. He is able and willing at all times to bring to fulfillment his promises to us. Paul takes us memory lane by reminding us of the promises that came through the prophets. He starts his narrative thus: “This is news about the son of God…It is about Jesus Christ. Through him, we receive grace and our apostolic mission…you are one of these nation, and by his call belong to Christ.” From this Paul clearly reminds us of our great heritage in Jesus Christ, of our mission and call, and most importantly, he re-enkindle and re-instills confidence in us for us to believe that “the promises of God are all of them sure” (II Cor 1, 20), and will come to pass. In the gospel, Matthew in his infancy narrative tells of “how Jesus came to be born.” how the word came to take flesh and dwell among us. Of significance in this story is the central positions occupied by Joseph and Mary as not just instruments for fulfilling God’s promises, but as collaborators, and cooperators in bringing about the fulfillment of God’s promises for the salvation of humankind. This is highly significant and laden with lessons. The first being that God is ever willing to fulfill his promises come what may. The second gives much credence to the saying that “in creating us God did not need our cooperation but in saving us he needs our cooperation.” Of course, this is not to underrate the power or ability of God to save us without our cooperation; or better still, that with God all things are no longer possible. No! Rather, it is a way of saying that God in spite being our creator respects our freedom especially to be saved. This simply means that we must make ourselves available for God to use us in advancing the course of humanity as Mary and Joseph did. It is because of their cooperation and availability that God-Is-With-Us! As we expect the coming of the Messiah, each one of us must make himself available as worthy instruments. We must be ready to cooperate with God as Mary and Joseph did in order that the promises of God might be fulfilled for our good. We must allow ourselves to be instruments through which God will better the lot of humanity. We must not resist God or even become obstacles to what God wishes to do in our lives. We must simply behave like Joseph whom we are told that “when he woke up, he did what the angel told him to do; he took his wife home.” We must be ready to do what God tells us to do if it must be accounted to us as those who cooperated with God. So, in whatever capacity we are called by God to serve his purpose and for the sake of humanity we must cooperate like Mary who bore God-Is-With-Us, and Joseph who protected Mary and God-Is-With-Us.
Peace be with you!