4th Sunday of Advent – Cycle B
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
Anticipation and preparedness are the watchwords for Advent.
Anticipation of the celebration of the birth of our Lord some 2000
years ago and the festivities, gifts, parties and family get-togethers
which accompany that celebration. Preparedness because we are reminded
that Jesus will come at the end of the world (the parousia) and all
will be judged – not just on whether they believed or not, but
how they have lived out their belief. Are the end times near? No one
knows but the Father. We must always be ready because our personal
parousia can come at any time.
1st Reading - 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
The two books of Samuel were originally one book which forms a
continuation of the deuteronomic history of God’s chosen people.
The book is first dominated by Samuel, the last of the Judges, who
struggles to keep Israel faithful to Yahweh under increasing pressure
from the Philistines. Defeats and the loss of the ark of the covenant,
symbol of Yahweh’s protection, show that Israel needs a new kind
of leadership – a king. Samuel anoints the first two kings, Saul
and his successor, David. Saul constructs the beginnings of a stable
monarchy but incurs divine displeasure and ends his rule in fits of
black despondency and murderous hatred of David.
In the second book, the book from which our reading today comes, David
is installed as king of Judah, and later as king of Israel as well. The
twelve tribes are reunited under one leader. The reunited Israel then
enjoys its most glorious period for it is, briefly, a major power in
the Near East. Most important, however, is that David is the model for
all kingship in Israel. He is a forceful yet attractive character, very
human in his failings but passionate and intimate in his devotion to
Yahweh. To him and to his line is promised endless rule, the basis of
all future hope for a Messiah. This is our reading for today.
7:1 When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given
him rest from his enemies on every side, 2 he said to Nathan the
prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of
God dwells in a tent!”
The peace which followed the victories over the Philistines had enabled
David to arrange the bringing of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem
where it resides in a tabernacle (tent). Nathan is the senior religious
advisor of David’s court.
3 Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in
mind, for the LORD is with you.” 4 But that night the LORD spoke
to Nathan and said: 5 “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus
says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?
God equates His presence with the ark of the covenant. The ark is the
sign of Yahweh’s covenant with His people and their protection
against every coercive power. The ark was carried before the troops
when they entered into battle.
8b It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the
flock to be commander of my people Israel. 9 I have been with you
wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. 10 I will
fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may
dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the
wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, 11 since the time I
first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from
all your enemies. The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a
house for you.
This house is not the promise of a building, but of a dynasty, the House of David.
12 And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I
will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will
make his kingdom firm.
The assurance of divine favor is extended to the dynasty.
14a I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.
This is covenant language, they will be part of God’s family.
David didn’t build the Temple to house the ark of the covenant,
his son Solomon is the one chosen by God for this task. This is not a
rejection of David, but a glorification of him through his son –
no parent feels rejected when their child accomplishes great things.
16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.’”
This oracle is the earliest statement of the belief in the eternity of
the dynasty of David, and is the root of the messianic expectation of
the rule of David.
2nd Reading - Romans 16:25-27
Our second reading today is the final three verses of Saint
Paul’s letter to the Romans. The letter was written to a
congregation which had not been founded by Saint Paul, but was one
which he anticipated visiting. The congregation is primarily composed
of converted Jews and it is from the viewpoint of a former Pharisee
that Saint Paul writes.
In our reading today, we find a new and different approach to the Jewish Scriptures:
the great mystery of God, gradually unveiled in the course of human
history, is now fully understood in the light of Jesus’ passion,
death and resurrection.
25 Now to him who can strengthen you,
Saint Paul blesses God, who assures the gospel of Christ to human beings.
according to my gospel
This is the good news which Saint Paul makes known.
and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of
the mystery kept secret for long ages 26 but now manifested through the
The Old Testament writings that bear on the mystery mentioned – such as our first reading.
“By saying this Paul is releasing the weak person from fear. For
this secret was contained in the law. Indeed, it is what the law was
all about. We cannot ask why it should be disclosed now, for to do this
would be to call God to account. We ought not to behave like busybodies
but instead be content with what we have been given.” [ Saint
John Chrysostom (ca. A.D. 391), Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans
and, according to the command of the eternal God,
Saint Paul may well be alluding to his commission as an apostle.
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
Saint Paul sees faith as a process that begins with hearing and ends
with a personal commitment and submission. This is what we Catholics
call “faith and works.” It is interesting that the first
and last mention of “faith” in Saint Paul’s letter to
the Romans is expressed in terms of “obedience of faith”
(Romans 1:5 and 16:26).
27 to the only wise God,
“Do not think that Paul said this in disparagement of the Son.
For if all the things whereby His wisdom was made apparent were done by
Christ and nothing was done without Him, it is quite plain that the Son
is equal to the Father in wisdom also. The word ‘only’ is
used in order to contrast God with every created being.” [Saint
John Chrysostom (ca. A.D. 391), Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans
through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The climax of the doxology. Praise is paid to God the Father through the Son, Jesus the Christ.
Gospel - Luke 1:26-38
Saint Luke was a Syrian of Antioch. He was neither an apostle nor an
eyewitness of Jesus’ earthly life. He wasn’t even a
prominent figure in the apostolic Church. He was a physician and a
companion or collaborator of Saint Paul. Although Saint Luke is
believed to have derived his gospel (and the Acts of the Apostles) from
Saint Paul, it bears little reflection of Saint Paul’s theology
as reflected in his letters. This has led scholars to theorize that
Saint Luke’s association with Saint Paul was early, before Saint
Paul’s theology was fully developed, before Saint Paul engaged in
serious letter writing, and before the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). A
more likely answer is that the gospel message is like a brilliant
jewel, and each individual approaches that jewel by viewing a different
facet. The Holy Spirit has guided each of the sacred writers as they
wrote, writing in terms with which they were familiar, and ensuring
that each writer taught no theological error, no matter in what style
Only two gospels contain what are known as the infancy narratives of
Jesus. Today we hear the story of the Annunciation from Saint
Luke’s gospel. If it sounds familiar, it is because we last heard
it a couple of weeks ago on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
26[T]he angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
At the time of the annunciation, Nazareth was an obscure little town of
some 150 people. It is believed to derive its name from the Hebrew word
neser which means “shoot.” Thus, Jesus comes from the shoot
of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1).
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
The name Joseph means “may Yahweh add.”
of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.
The name Mary means “excellence.”
28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of
grace! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at
what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Mary has been told that God is with her, and most importantly, she is
full of grace. As far as she is concerned, she has done nothing
spectacular which would warrant a visit from an angel with this sort of
greeting. She is puzzled.
30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you
have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb
and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.
Jesus, in Hebrew, is Yeshua (Joshua). It means “Yahweh saves.”
32 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, 33 and he will
rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be
Mary’s future son is described with language ordinarily reserved
for God’s redeeming presence among His people: “Son of the
Most High” (Genesis 14:19ff; Sirach 24:2), “everlasting
king” (Genesis 21:33; Daniel 12:7; Psalm 24:7, 10; 97:1).
34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
The angel has said “you shall conceive” not “you have
conceived,” it is future tense. Mary is espoused to Joseph. If a
“normal” married life was planned, the question makes no
sense. If she, on the other hand was a consecrated virgin, then
“normal” marital relations were not planned and the
question becomes reasonable. The Gospel of the Birth of Mary (not
considered inspired, but possibly relating some historical
information), says that Mary entered the Temple at the age of three and
lived with other virgins in the apartments of the Temple until the age
of fourteen. “At that time the high priest made a public order.
That all the virgins who had public settlements in the temple, and were
come to this age, should return home, and, as they were now of a proper
maturity, should, according to the custom of their country, endeavor to
be married. To which command, though all the other virgins readily
yielded obedience, Mary the Virgin of the Lord alone answered she could
not comply with it. Assigning these reasons, that both she and her
parents had devoted her to the service of the Lord; and besides, that
she had vowed virginity to the Lord, which vow she was resolved never
to break through by lying with a man” (The Lost Books of the
Bible, Bell Publishing Company, New York, 1979, page 21).
35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The
holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will
This reminds us of how God showed Himself to the people in the
tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) and the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kings 8:10).
Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. 36
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her
old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
This provides a link with the annunciation story of Elizabeth which
preceded this one (Luke 1:11-13) and also lays the groundwork for the
story of the Visitation which is to follow (Luke 1:39-56).
37 for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary’s virginity reveals a new depth of meaning: complete trust
and obedience before God. 38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the
handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your
This is a differential form of the word used in the Our Father: “Thy will be done.”
Then the angel departed from her.
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org