Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today on the Fourth Sun­day of Advent we hear in the read­ings of promis­es. In the first read­ing, a promise is made: God tells David that a descen­dant will be raised up as his heir, and that David’s house and king­dom will endure; that his throne shall stand firm for­ev­er.

In today’s Gospel, we see that promise kept. The angel Gabriel declares to Mary that she will con­ceive and bear a son and name him Jesus, that her son will be called the Son of the Most High and that God will give Him the throne of David to rule for­ev­er, and of his King­dom there will be no end.

God makes a promise and God keeps a promise because God always keeps His promis­es. But there is some­thing deep­er, and amaz­ing, going on here. Mary is not with­out choice: she agrees to become the moth­er of God. She agrees to become the Taber­na­cle that will con­ceive and bear Jesus, the Sav­ior of all mankind.

The Gospel tells us that Mary said, “Behold, I am the hand­maid of the Lord. May it be done to me accord­ing to your word.”

These are per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant words ever spo­ken by a human being. In say­ing that I am mak­ing a some­what arti­fi­cial dis­tinc­tion between Jesus and Mary; Jesus is ful­ly God and ful­ly man. Mary, though giv­en spe­cial graces, is sole­ly human.

Eve lis­tened to the words of the Ser­pent and was tempt­ed through pride into Orig­i­nal Sin; her hus­band Adam in his weak­ness fol­lowed her into that sin. Togeth­er, they changed the fate of all who came after them, and as a result we still fight the bat­tle against pride and sin today.

Mary, how­ev­er, lis­tened to the words of God deliv­ered by an angel and respond­ed with humil­i­ty. She agreed not to gain some­thing, but to give some­thing: to give life to the Son of God, to make it pos­si­ble for God to take on human flesh and dwell among us. Mary, in her agree­ment to God’s sav­ing plan, opened a path for all of us to find sal­va­tion. Eve’s pride made it nec­es­sary for us to find sal­va­tion; Mary’s humil­i­ty made it pos­si­ble for us to find sal­va­tion.

You and I fight that same bat­tle every day. We may not be in a posi­tion to fight it in a way that has con­se­quences for all of mankind, but the con­se­quences for us as indi­vid­u­als can­not be over­state. Pride will lead us to self­ish­ness and sin; humil­i­ty will lead us to sac­ri­fice and sal­va­tion.

Now lets take a step to the side and con­sid­er this: What is a Taber­na­cle? I said a moment ago that Mary agreed to become the Taber­na­cle that would con­ceive and bear Jesus. Here in our sanc­tu­ary the met­al box that sits behind the altar is also called a taber­na­cle.

In the ancient Hebrew world, a “taber­na­cle” (in Hebrew, Mishkan) is a mov­able dwelling. It is, basi­cal­ly, a tent. But to King David, it was a very spe­cial kind of tent; it was the tent that held the ark of God. David was upset that, as he said, “Here I am liv­ing in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”

A taber­na­cle; and then, the Taber­na­cle. It held the Holy of Holies and was the endur­ing sym­bol to the peo­ple of God that the Lord was with them.

A taber­na­cle serves a very spe­cial pur­pose: it serves as the home of God. The ark of God dwelled in a tent. The Christ was con­ceived and grew to infan­cy in Mary’s womb. Here today our taber­na­cle holds the con­se­crat­ed hosts – the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divin­i­ty of Christ.

I invite all of you to take a look at the Taber­na­cle. Not a good, hard look; although, that might be worth doing also. No – I want you to take a squin­ty look. A blur­ry look. If you’re like me, you can just take off your glass­es. If you are blessed with good eye­sight, now is not the time for it.

Squint, and con­sid­er shape and col­or. Lines. Then think about what that taber­na­cle hold – the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divin­i­ty of Christ. After Mass, when you go out to the park­ing lot, pause for a moment and look back at the church build­ing. Squint. Con­sid­er shape and col­or. Lines. You should notice a sim­i­lar­i­ty.

Now think about what the church holds: peo­ple who come faith­ful­ly week after week to hear the Word of God and to receive the Word made Flesh – the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divin­i­ty of Christ. We become Taber­na­cles of Christ by what we con­sume; we become a dwelling place for our Lord and Sav­ior.

When Mass ends today, the last thing I will say before we all depart is, “Go in peace, glo­ri­fy­ing the Lord by your life.” These aren’t just nice words; these are key to the future of this parish here in Ray­town and, real­ly, to the church through­out the world.

When we live our faith, we become taber­na­cles of holi­ness, just like Mary. We fol­low her exam­ple and hope in our own small way to live up to the mod­el she pro­vides. Go in peace, glo­ri­fy­ing the Lord by your life. Live your faith, let oth­ers see your joy. This is the bea­con of hope that might lead anoth­er to Christ… might save a sin­ner from damna­tion. Does the world seem dark to you? Does it seem like the cards are stacked against us? Good! Rejoice! A world in dark­ness is all the more oppor­tu­ni­ty for your light to shine. Embrace holi­ness. Live holi­ness, just as the Vir­gin Mary lived holi­ness. When you are tempt­ed, ask Mary for her inter­ven­tion. Ask her to give you strength. Ask for her help. And let oth­ers see your joy, the joy that is found in our Sav­ior and His promise of sal­va­tion. If we all do this – if we all tru­ly live our faith and invite oth­ers to share our joy – we will fill this parish to over­flow­ing

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