Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

(I Samuel 1:24-28; Luke 1:46-56)

One of Mary’s titles is “Queen of Apostles.”  She sits among Jesus’ most intimate followers at the Pentecost event, but there is a more cogent reason for naming her their queen.  Mary is the first to preach the good news as an apostle. She responds to the word of the angel that her relative Elizabeth by going forth to the expectant mother.  There Mary deflects Elizabeth’s salutation, “Blessed are you among women…,” with a tribute to God’s glory.

Mary proclaims the greatness of God who has not only done great things for her but also “has cast down the mighty from their thrones.”  It is evident that God has chosen her to be the mother of His Son, but as yet the mighty still sit comfortably while the hungry scrounge.  What gives?  Only this: Mary manifests apostolicity by foretelling the imminent reversal of these fortunes with the coming of her son.

Mary presents for us an example to follow.  She does not draw attention to her own achievements but concedes any greatness she possesses to God.  More importantly, she leaves her comfort zone to enjoin others in anticipating the coming of Jesus.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

(Judges 13:2-7.24-25a; Luke 1:5-25)

Technological gadgets seem to free people from traditional surveillance.  Parents cannot readily see what kind of images their children are viewing in their telephones.  At the same time other gadgets form a kind of technological leash that seems to impede liberation.  With the IPhones capacity for self-location, wives can find out where their husbands are.  These innovations leave a sense that freedom is a cat-and-mouse game, ever illusive even as it seems more at hand.  But the problem is with the conception of freedom that is being considered.  In the readings today there is a progression toward the true freedom that Christ has won.

The first reading from the Book of Judges describes the conception of Samson with God’s intervention.  Samson is born late in life to a couple who were unable to conceive.  Samson will lead Israel from the hegemony of the Philistines to political freedom.  The story of John’s conception in the Gospel of Luke relates a similar kind of conception.  John will eventually launch the campaign for a greater liberation which Jesus brings to completion.

Although political subjugation should never be dismissed, it is not the most grievous form of servitude.  Sin forms a more serious bondage since it will place us outside of God’s favor.  Jesus has broken the bonds of sin by obeying the Father’s will that he preach His love, come what may.  Staying close to him, we are not ensnared by the attraction of evil.  Close to him, we walk in true freedom of God’s daughters and sons.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

(Jeremiah 23:5-8; Matthew 1:18-25)

Philosophers talk about the “pie rule” as a means to insure justice between two people.  They say that if one person is allowed to cut a pie and the other to choose the piece she wants, the pie will almost assuredly be cut into perfect halves.  This may be a way to achieve equality, but does it secure real justice?  Is justice not a matter of everyone having enough to secure his welfare?  Universal welfare is what Scripture means as justice, and the readings today provide examples.

In the first reading Jeremiah looks forward to a king whose name will include the word justice.  He will bring security to all Israel.  The gospel shows how Joseph is rightly called just by being unwilling to expose Mary, the mother of Jesus, to shame.  This refusal probably cost him the woman’s dowry according to Jewish custom.  Justice then is more than equality or a fair share.  It involves making sacrifice for the good of all.  Jesus is the just one who gives himself up to death on a cross so that the world may know God’s love.

We speak of being justified as if it were only the blotting out of our sins.  But it is much more.  When Jesus justifies us through his death and resurrection by the grace of the Holy Spirit, he offers us the opportunity to reflect his justice.  To be sure it requires the development of virtue – no easy task.  But it results in advantage for all around us and in our sharing in Jesus’ eternal glory.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

(Genesis 49:2.8-10; Matthew 1:1-17)

Today the “O” Antiphons launch the Church’s proximate preparation for Christmas.  These verses, which make up the traditional carol “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” convey the desire of all good people for a savior.  Today’s verse pictures the savior as wisdom which will distinguish helpful knowledge from vanity.

The gospel reading traces Jesus’ lineage through David and Judah to Abraham.  It goes through Solomon, the Jewish father of wisdom.  More importantly, it exemplifies the order that wisdom creates – forty-two generations from Abraham to Jesus, divided into three groups of fourteen, which itself is twice the number of perfection.

If one could make a Christmas request, wisdom would make a worthy choice.  It rounds out a good life with the dual senses of gratitude for what we have and patience for what we lack. When we seek wisdom in Jesus, we appreciate him as a life-long companion who will guide truly us to our destiny.