My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
First of all, I would like to ask you special prayers for our brothers and sisters at St. James Church in Redondo Beach.
As you probably know, the other night, after their parish Christmas concert, was an accident that left four people dead, including a little boy six-years-old, Samuel, and three adult women. It is very sad.
We need to pray for the families and for everyone that was involved in that tragedy. And it’s hard, it’s sad, especially because it’s so close to Christmas. But we know that the coming of Christ means that that is not the end. Because God’s love is stronger than death. So let us especially pray for all of them, for the families, and for the members of the parish and the parish school. So that they will have the love and mercy of God those days and especially the company of our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph
Today is, as we know, the fourth Sunday of Advent. Christmas is coming. In a few days we will celebrate Christmas day. And today, the Church is presenting us with a few final thoughts of the history of salvation and continue and accelerate with our preparation for Christmas.
So the first reading that we heard today from the Prophet Isaiah takes us back to the time of King David and the prophet Nathan. And we heard the great prophecy that God makes to David.
When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you …
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.
And what this prophecy is, is the promise of our salvation, my brothers and sisters.
Jesus Christ is the Son of David and the Son of God and his Church shall stand forever.
This is important for us to remember because it reminds us that God is in charge of history. He always has been and he always will be. And what happens at Christmas is part of his loving plan.
In the second reading today, St. Paul tells us that the coming of Jesus Christ is the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages.
This is the reality of God’s plan of salvation. All of the history of Israel, all of the history of the world, was just waiting for Christmas. Just waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ.
My brothers and sisters, the most interesting thing for us is that salvation history is not only about the past. It is also about the present. It is about your life and my life, today, 2014.
We are called — each one of us — to enter into the reality of salvation history. This is what salvation means. It means that each one of us accepts the salvation that God intends for all his children.
For practical purposes for all of us, it means that Jesus must come to every heart, just as he came to the heart of Mary. Each one of us — we all are called, just as Mary was, to say “yes” to God. To say “yes” to his plan for our life. Each one of us.
That’s why our Gospel today centers us on Mary, our Blessed Mother.
It is a beautiful, familiar story that we know well. The story of the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and announces the coming of Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis said this morning that at Christmas, Christ passes by and knocks at our heart. And Pope Francis says, “Let us not let him get away. Let us throw open our doors before him.”
So you see, the plan of salvation that comes to the fullness of times with God asking our Blessed Mother to be the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God. And Mary said “yes!” And that same plan of salvation is coming to each one of us. And God is asking us to be part of it. God is calling us, each one of us, to be an active part in the life of the Church. And that each one of us is asking us to say “yes” to his plan for our lives.
So we have to be listening for his voice, just as our Blessed Mother was listening.
As I’m sure that you noticed in the passage of the Gospel in today’s Mass, Mary is not passive. She asks the Angel some questions. She ponders. And my brothers and sisters, we have to be the same way. We have to be listening to God’s Word, pondering God’s Word in our hearts, just like Mary.2
So that means that we have to make time for the Word of God in our lives. Listening and looking — listening for the voice of God, looking for the signs of his presence in our lives.
This is the lesson that our Blessed Mother teaches us. That’s why Christmas must be an exciting time for each one of us not just because — I don’t know, there are beautiful Christmas trees, or because we are going to get presents maybe, your Christmas present is beautiful, great. Or because we are going to have a family celebration, which is great, Christmas is a wonderful family time, Christmas. But besides all of that, we need think about what it means, for humanity and for me, each one of us.
Listening and looking! And saying yes to God, as Mary, our Blessed Mother did.
But our Blessed Mother also shows us the humility of service — of being open to God’s will and God’s plan. Like our Blessed Mother, we have to ask God all the time — “Lord, what do you want me to do? How do you want me to respond to this situation, to this person? What’s your will? And how can I do it?”
Beautiful words of our Blessed Mother from the story of the Annunciation:
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your Word.
Mary teaches us listening, looking, and acting — obedience and humility. Not my will, but your will! I will do, Mary says, — not what I want, but what you want. And this is what God is expecting from each one of us every day. It’s beautiful, it’s exciting.
Because we know that with the grace of God, with the help of God, we can do it. For our Blessed Mother, it was a total mystery. She said “yes” and it happened. For each one of us, the little situations in our life, in our everyday life, sometimes, how am I going to do it? With the help of the grace of God, we can do it.
So in these final days before Christmas, let us try to open ourselves more to God’s Holy Spirit, to make our lives more available to God. We need to say, as Mary did — I want to do I want to do your will. Let is be done to me, according to your word.
As Pope Francis said this morning, “This Christmas the Lord will come and do not forget. The Lord will come by and you feel that the desire to improve, to do better, it is the Lord knocking at your door.”
So let us ask for the grace to say “yes” to God, as Mary our Blessed Mother did. And let us continue our active preparation for Christmas, and I wish you and your families a blessed and Merry Christmas.
1. Readings (Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B): 2 Sam. 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Ps. 89:2-5, 27-29; Rom. 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38.
2. Luke 2:19.