4th. Sunday Of Advent – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Jesus, The “God With Us”.
God’s choice rested on the House of David which was to bring forth the ‘Emmanuel’, the ‘God with-us’. Mary’s child was to belong to all of the nations. We are one of those nations, who, by God’s will, belong to Jesus Christ.
In the first reading, Hezekiah was not the ‘ideal king’ Isaiah expected. Thus the expectation of another king to fulfil the promise remained.
The second reading shows the happiness and joy of Paul at being able to announce this ‘Good News’ to all.
Matthew in the Gospel tells us that Isaiah’s prophesy was fully accomplished in Jesus. He is the true “God is with- us”.
During this period of Advent, the Blessed Virgin Mary calls us to contemplate what the Lord has worked in her and invites us to believe in the victory of life even when we see only the signs of death and despair.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden. In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
In the first reading, Ahaz, king of Judah, was preparing for war. He was very worried and upset because his enemies had decided to kill him and to destroy his family. Ahaz refuses to ask for God’s help, even though he is in dire need. Ahaz did not place much faith in the divine promises, he trusted more in human reckoning. Furthermore his army was too weak and so he was running the risk of losing his kingdom. Ahaz planned to plea for help from a powerful neighbouring nation, Assyria. Assyria was indeed powerful and would certainly come to the rescue, but would end up colonizing the small kingdom of Judah, too. The Assyrians were pagans and materialists and their lives were corrupt; they would certainly be a danger to the ‘faith and religious integrity’ of the people of God.
The prophet decides to speak with king Ahaz face to face and tells him that there was no reason to be afraid and that he was to put his trust in God and not in Assyria. His enemies would soon be defeated and his family would continue to reign over Jerusalem. Ahaz was not convinced. He remained stubborn and felt safer siding with Assyria rather than trusting in God.
A few days later Isaiah went to see him again in his palace and told him: “If you do not believe my words, ask for a sign!” Rather than seek a sign from the God of Israel that all would turn out well for himself and for his people, he turns to the king of Assyria. Angered by Ahaz’s unbelief, Isaiah gave him the sign all the same, though the king did not want it: “It is this: the maiden is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” [God with us]. The maiden, Isaiah was referring to, was the young wife of Ahaz. This girl, said the prophet, will bear a son. This son will become a great king and will succeed his father Ahaz and God’s promise to David will be fulfilled through him.
Despite Ahaz’s unbelief, Isaiah knows that God would see to it that a king from the line Ahaz (and David) would one day save Israel. As predicted, Assyria turned from protector and defender to colonizer. Ahaz suffered great humiliations and was forced to pay heavy taxes. The promise of the prophet was fulfilled: the son of Ahaz, Hezekiah, was conceived by the maiden, was born and became a good king: he was the sign of the presence of God among his people. So the name “Emmanuel – God with us” fitted him well. But Hezekiah was not the ‘ideal king’ Isaiah expected. Thus the expectation of another king to fulfil the promise remained. Matthew saw the birth of Jesus as the full accomplishment of this promise.
The psalmist takes God with immense seriousness: ‘YHWH’s the world, and all that fills it’, he sings, and then asks who can possibly respond to such a God, ‘Who shall go up YHWH’s mountain, and who shall climb his holy place?’ The Psalm was originally used in processions of the Ark of the Covenant. Only participants, who lived a sound moral life, were welcome. Such ‘just men’ prepare us for Joseph in the Gospel.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul presents himself as an apostle and herald of the Gospel, and a servant of Christ. Paul is proud of having been chosen by God to bring the ‘Good News’ of the Resurrection of Christ to all people. Paul makes clear that Isaiah’s promise was fulfilled in Jesus. For Jesus, he writes, “he was declared to be the Son of God with power … by his Resurrection from the dead.” Paul sees his mission to bring the whole world to believe, obey and to belong to Christ.
From the prophesies of the Old Testament the Jews knew that the Messiah would be a descendant of the great king David. Matthew wants to prove to his Jewish Christians that Jesus is truly of David’s line. With the Jews – as for many African peoples – the clan of the child is determined not by the mother, but by the father. Joseph is of ‘David’s stock’ and by accepting Jesus as his legal child; Jesus becomes a ‘son of David’.
Matthew placed his genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of his Gospel (Mt 1:1-17) in order to make this point clear right from the start. Joseph is presented to us as an example of a man of faith. He never hesitates. He obeys each time the messenger of God says something to him concerning his relationship with Mary and the child Jesus. His ‘faith response’ allows God to intervene in their lives.
God always invites us to work with Him and to trust his messengers. Mary’s husband Joseph reminds us of another Joseph, also a son of Jacob, in the Old Testament. Both Josephs experience God’s revelation in dreams. They both lived through difficult times and dramatic events. God’s intervention saves a ‘whole nation’ in the case of ‘Joseph of the Old Testament’ and the ‘whole of humanity’ in the case of ‘Joseph of the New Testament’.
There is an important difference in the way Matthew quotes the words of Isaiah. The original Hebrew text spoke of ‘a young woman’. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek, it was translated as ‘a virgin’. It is the translation ‘virgin’ that entered the religious tradition of Israel. So they expected that the Messiah would be born of a virgin as a sign of God’s special intervention.
The angel of the Lord in this Sunday’s Gospel reassures Joseph in his confusion and bewilderment. The nearness of God that the passage promises gives reassurance to us that we never have to face our trials alone because the Lord is always with us. The child that was promised to Ahaz was only an image of the child that has been given to us, the child whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas. Spare a thought for those who will find Christmas a lonely time. Those who are without loved ones with who to share in the season of giving and receiving family love.
These readings remind us that ‘openness to faith’ and ‘total trust in God’ will weather our storms and overcome our darkness. God wants to be our Saviour, he wants to rescue us from our enemies and he wants to confer on us an everlasting value. God wants to preserve what he has made us to be for all eternity. God has plans for us, big plans, important plans and those plans include God’s on-going presence in our lives through our sharing in the life of his Son, Jesus, our Emmanuel, who is ‘God who is with us’.
This Advent, God invites us to work with him and to trust in his messengers even when they do not appear as angels. We are called to be vigilant in prayer to the many ways that God communicates to us each day. Let us pray for the grace of God, which guided Joseph and Mary to always carry out ‘His’ will. In relying on God while remaining open to human help, we will indeed navigate the difficult and stormy waters of life successfully.
Does our ‘faith response’ allow God to intervene in our lives?
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
4th Sunday of Advent Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … What God had wanted from Ahaz was to do nothing, to trust in Him and wait out the crisis. Our faith requires us to put ourselves entirely in God’s hands. How many times have we been stubborn and gone ahead with our own plans without asking God for his guidance only to realize costly mistakes and failures?
Mon. … We have to be open to the outrageous: virgin births, guiding stars, visiting kings and angels talking to shepherds. If we ask for a sign, we might have to live with the astonishing results.
Tue. … In spite of Ahaz’s short-sighted political scheming, the house of David will survive. As later generations reflected in the promise, they saw more in it than just the reassurance of Ahaz’s successor. They saw it as a promise of the Messiah. God has plans for the future, and at the centre of those plans is ‘God’s presence in his people’.
Wed. … Paul is proud of having been chosen by God to bring the ‘Good News’ to all men and women. Are we convinced that the Gospel is ‘Good News’ and a source of joy and truth? Are we happy to belong to Christ and live our lives accordingly?
Thur. … In a few days we are going to be celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It’s a joyful feast for many reasons. There are family reunions, the exchanging of gifts, and countless acts of generosity to those in need, and this is not surprising because that’s why Jesus came – to bring out the best in all of us.
Frid. … Sins are not just breaking the rules; they are acting out our worst instincts and offend God. We all know that we have these enemies within us; when we let them out, they offend God, do harm to others and to ourselves. They keep us from reaching out to God and those who love us or need us.
Sat. … The angel tells Joseph that he and Mary are to call the child ‘Jesus’, meaning “Yahweh saves,” because he is destined to save his people. Jesus was not a ‘messiah’ who would win military victory over their enemies; he was a ‘Messiah’ to save them and us from our sins. Not all of our enemies are outside us. Some are within called ‘sins’. It is from these that Jesus came to save us.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, we pray that we may always put our trust in you. Grant us the ‘spiritual wisdom’ to trust in Your messengers even when they do not appear as angels or in someone we least expect. May we be vigilant in prayer to the many ways that You communicate with us each day. Lord, we pray for Your grace, which guided Joseph and Mary to always do ‘Your’ will. May we be to others a sign of Your Great ‘Love’.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.