FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Fourth Sunday of Advent (A)
Isaiah 7:10-14 | Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 | Romans 1:1-7 | Matthew 1:18-24
We are now on the fourth Sunday of Advent, and as the song goes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! The Scriptures for this Sunday before Christmas focus directly on the mystery of who Jesus Christ is.
Jose Mello, four year old son of Joseph and Melanie, spilled his soda on the rug and wanted to clean up the mess himself. So Melanie, his mother, told him that the mop was just outside the back door. Quickly, he ran to the door, but realized that it had become dark outside. Suddenly scared, he told Joseph, his father, what the problem was. Assuring him, he told him that Jesus is everywhere, even in dark places, and that he'll always protect him. This put a smile on Jose Mello's face! So, he opened the door just enough to poke his head outside and called out "Jesus, if you're out there, could you pass me the mop?"
Rezin, king of Syria has entered into an alliance with Pekah, king of the Northern kingdom of Israel against the Southern kingdom of Judah, of which Ahaz is king. Together they have surrounded Jerusalem in an effort to force Judah into an alliance with them against the powerful state of Assyria. Isaiah offers Ahaz a sign that everything will eventually turn out well. Despite of this, Ahaz did not put his trust in the LORD. Acting against the counsel of the prophet Isaiah, Ahaz entered into an ungodly alliance with Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria, to repel the invaders. In frustration, Isaiah announced God’s sign anyway, the birth from a virgin of a son, whose very name, “Emmanuel” (God is with us), would assure everyone that God was really with His people. Ahaz has no intention of changing his plans. His mind is made up. In the end, Assyria defeated the invaders, and Ahaz presented himself as a subject to the Assyrian king. Not only was Judah’s political situation worsened but Assyria levied on Judah a heavy tribute and introduced Assyrian gods into the Temple. The child in question was Ahaz’s own son, Hezekiah, soon to be born of his young pregnant wife. The name given to him by Isaiah, “Emmanuel” (God is with us), perfectly reflects the purpose for which he was born. Through him, God will be restored to his Temple, and Israelites will be restored to their God. The message from God to Ahaz was, “Shhh! Just calm down, don’t be afraid and don’t do anything rash.” Ahaz didn’t need to perform any heroic maneuvers or political alliances. He just needed to trust that God was telling the truth. Instead he joined forces with Assyria, which ended up in disaster. What are some of God’s promises to you? If we trusted perfectly in God’s Word, how would these promises shape your lives?
One day in Heaven, Moses and Jesus were playing a round of golf when an old man asked if he could join them. They said, “Sure”. Moses hit first and he hit a duck-hook that went immediately towards the water. When the ball got close to the water, the waters parted on dry land and rolled up onto the green. Jesus was next to hit and He also hit His ball towards the water but instead of parting, the ball hovered over the water and onto the green some 6 feet from the hole. The old man asked himself, “How am I ever going to top those two guys?” He took a swing and he severely sliced the ball to the right, hit a tree, and bounced along the shore next to the water. Before the ball came to a stop, a squirrel picked up the ball and started running away when an eagle swooped down to pick up the squirrel making him drop the ball onto the green which proceeded into the hole for a hole in one! Jesus came over to the old man, looked over him for a moment and said, “Neat! Good shot Dad!”
In our Second Reading, Paul greets the members of the Church in Rome and declares that the gospel of God concerns Jesus, God's only begotten Son, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh. Paul does not use the name Emmanuel for Jesus, but he does provide a sweeping summary of God’s mighty acts in history through Jesus Christ. Are you done with your Christmas shopping yet? Have you given anyone ridiculously expensive Christmas presents? This is a public service announcement: Tumatanggap pa po ako ng regalo. Kidding aside, I heard that someone actually tried to compute how much it would cost to give the gifts named in the classic Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The grand total came to about ₱761,482.50. Still, the real message of Christmas is not the gifts that we give to each other. Rather, it is a reminder of the gift that God has given to each of us. Jesus was born to be God’s ridiculously costly gift to us. The Son of God became man so that he could save us from our sins. That's really one good shot, isn't it? Let us be generous in sharing this ridiculously valuable gift with others.
Joseph was listening to his son, Jose Mello say his bedtime prayer "Dear Harold." At this, he interrupted and said, "Wait a minute, why did you call God 'Harold'?" The little boy looked up and said, "That's what G-pop Yuli, and G-mum Susan and the rest of parish folks call Him. You know the prayer, "Our Father, who art in Heaven, Harold be Thy name."
What's in a name? When we are born we are given a name. Some of our parents thought long and hard to give us a name. Some of them didn’t think about it and just blurted it out when we were born. Some were named by a nurse or doctor or some other person that was around at the birth. In our Gospel, Joseph, a righteous man, “adopted” Jesus by giving the child a name which had been revealed to him by an angel. The child’s name, in Joseph’s native tongue was “Yehosua”, which means ‘YHWH is salvation’. This name, which we today translate as “Jesus”, means that this newly born child’s life purpose would be to bring God’s salvation into the world. Through Jesus, God will save the world. In Hebrew, El is a short form of Elohim, a name for God. Emmanu-El means “God with us.” Emmanuel describes Jesus’ role or vocation. Jesus’ calling is to save his people from their sins and to manifest God’s presence. Have you ever researched your name? By virtue of our Baptism, we are all called "Christian" because we "belong to Christ". It surely means something. Do we actually live up to what this name means? Advent is almost over and there is still time to be generous to others in need or who are lonely at this time of the year. As Christians we are called to save them (Yehosua) and manifest God's presence (Emmanuel) to them. Be alert to bless others during the week. <enrique.ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum