4th Sunday of Advent. December 21, 2014
2Sam 7:1-5,8-12,14,16; Rom 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38
Responding to God’s favours
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.”
Ps 116:12-14 has always spoken to me in a unique way since I embraced my vocation to the religious life and priesthood. The Psalmist, with a heart filled with sincere gratitude to God, asks, “How can I repay the Lord for all the good that He has done for me?” His first answer speaks to me as a priest who has been graced by God to offer the Eucharist sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ and obtain God’s blessings for His people: “I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” His second response speaks to me as a vowed religious, “I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of His people.” These verses remind me that my response to God’s favours to me in this life will not be complete without that loving obedience that moves me to wholeheartedly embrace the will of God as regards my vocation in life.
“How can I repay the Lord for all the good that He has done for me?” A similar question must have been on the mind of King David in today’s First Reading. God had shown the King great favour: “The King was settled in his palace, and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies on every side.” Out of gratitude, he intends to build a house for the Lord. But the Lord reminds King David that, through an heir of David, He (God) will build a dynasty of David that will bring about a father-son relationship: “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.” God is not interested in a temple building but in bringing to the hearts of men that obedience that is borne out of love for God as Father.
St. Paul teaches in the Second Reading that God’s mysterious and loving plan of salvation, a plan hidden for many ages, is now being “made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ.” Through Jesus Christ, we have access to that obedience to God that is rooted in a relationship with God. It is not the obedience that seeks personal gain or comfort, or an obedience that places self at the centre and God on the periphery. Neither is it an obedience that is fashionable to today’s word or according to its standards. Such a heroic obedience finds its motive in God’s unconditional love for us all in Jesus Christ and His saving actions. Realizing that divine favours received manifest God’s unceasing loving acts towards us, the truly grateful soul responds to divine favours with an active love through an obedience that is neither conditional nor self-seeking.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, nothing weakness our obedience than our self-seeking. On the other hand, nothing energizes this virtue in us more than a deep gratitude to God for all His favours to us in this life. The more that we see all these favours as truly unmerited gifts from God, the more that our obedience is fuelled by love for God who has been so gracious to us.
If we find ourselves struggling with obedience to God and to lawful authority, in addition to praying for the grace to practice this virtue, we should also pray God to give us light to see truly the giftedness of all things, that we do not in any way merit these His favours. Such a deep awareness of the gratuity of these favours can move us to heroic obedience and avoid the trap of self-seeking in obeying God.
Today’s Gospel shows us how Mary exemplified this loving obedience. Listening to the angel Gabriel’s words, she was initially “troubled at what was said to her and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” The angel calmed her by reminding her of God’s unique favour towards her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.” With her pure soul she grasped the utter gratuity of all that she had and has. In response to God’s graciousness towards her, Mary gave God more than the use of her womb. She responded with a complete gift of herself to God: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” But she also crowned her self-offering with an unreserved obedience to all that God would require of her in all things: “May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary’s heroic obedience that reached its climax at the Foot of the Cross on Good Friday was fuelled by a deep realization of God’s favour to her.
We too have found favour with God. We too can call God Father by virtue of Christ’s merits communicated to us in this Eucharistic celebration. Heroic obedience is thus possible for us too in response to God’s favours. Looking back at all the favours we have received, we are moved to ask, “How can I make a return to the Lord for all the good that He has done for me?” Whatever we choose to do, our response will not be complete unless it is crowned by loving obedience to a God who has been so gracious to us.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honour to Mary!!!