Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020
Tiempo de lectura aprox: 2 minutos, 41 segundos
God Took The Initiative
The Judeo-Christian Narrative is largely based on God’s revelation. In the beginning God spoke and ordered creation into existence and He is intimately involved in His creation. He is always God with us, in us, for us and through us. He is in the details of our stories. Everything begins in Him and is meant to end in Him so that He may be God of all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). In the heart of this narrative is the theme of God taking the initiative in a plan of sheer goodness to freely create and to let His creation share in His own blessed life.
Thus creation is intelligible; it has meaning and purpose. Life is not as futile and meaningless as William Shakespeare paints it in Macbeth – ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.’ The Judeo-Christian Narrative even sees this theme of nothingness as meaningful and purposeful. In biblical understanding, God created ex nihilo, from nothingness. Today, it seems obvious that from our nothingness newness evolves.
This is very true of the story of the Israelites. God entered a covenantal relationship with them. He was their God, and they were His people. But they were not the best of people when we read their history. There were times, and indeed many times when they were not faithful to God. They broke their part of the covenant, but God kept His promise. They were taken captive, made slaves, sent into exile, and treated as a people without worth. But amidst all this, God was governing and ordering their lives and history according to His good plan and purpose.
God was revealing to them that He was the Lord of History. And everything, even their sins and the evil they were experiencing, under His gracious plan were in the end reordered for good as Saint Augustine argues. However, the Israelites, like many of us, did not feel their experiences were amounting to any good. For them, as it is for many of us in times of difficulties and crisis God did not seem to care. Come to think of it, God promised them that the dynasty of David will last forever. But how long did that last? Not long after David’s death did his kingdom split into two.
And the kingly line of David came to a horrible and disgraceful end with King Zedekiah. We can only imagine what this meant for the Israelites. There is no doubt, their lives, Story, Temple, Land were all brought down to nothingness. A people that once stood tall and prided themselves as a people with their God so close to them than any other nation’s gods, became a people that struggled to reconcile God’s promises and their reality. But what they did not realise was that out of their ruins, nothingness, God was again taking the initiative, creating newness.
While the Israelites, (later the Jews) were fighting Roman injustice, crying for God’s help, and begging Him to fulfil His promise of a Messiah, a King like David, God was taking the initiative, asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to cooperate with Him in bringing about the realisation of His promise of a Davidic King. Today’s Gospel reading from Luke 1:26-28 tells the story of how God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary in Nazareth. It is worth bearing in mind that Nazareth was considered a non-existing town. It was never mentioned in the Old Testament nor by Jewish historians. Again, we encounter the theme of newness from nothingness.
And Mary’s great hymn of praise captures this theme, ‘He looks at His servant in her lowliness.’ “Lowliness” here is often translated as nothingness. And the pronoun “her” can be interpreted as referring to Mary, or to the whole nation of Israel. Whatever it is, the point of the text is that God looked at the nothingness of His own creation and took the initiative to save it. And He did that by doing what He did in the beginning, He spoke the Word, and the Word became flesh, dwelling among us, gathering us, transforming us, and restoring in us the Original Good we had lost to sin.
Today, amid all that is happening in the world: the COVID-19, the economic meltdown, wars, natural disasters, God is still looking at our lowliness, our nothingness, our powerlessness. He is summoning us as He did Mary to prepare a womb for His Word to take flesh and bring about the salvation of the world. And this will be realised when we say and live Mary’s response to the angel, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord let what you have said (The Word) be done to me.’ Remember, it was after Mary had said these words that history was recreated – viz., the Gospel, the Good News that God has taken the initiative and acted again became our story and our joy.
Fr Francis Afu