Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent 2008
As you drive down the highway, or for that matter even around town, one gets the impression that speed limits are not taken too seriously by many people. In our modern cars we have a false sense of security. They move so well at speed that you lose any sense of danger. Cars are built with all kinds of safety features that reassure us. Besides, cars are built for speed so we tend to use that capability. However, it is a serious matter that so many drivers disregard the needs of others on the roads. All the deaths and injuries, fines and appeals by police seem to make no difference.
It is a worry especially that Christmas, a time of peace and family celebration, is one of the most dangerous times to be on the road. Perhaps our Christmas present to the community could be that we bring that sense of Advent expectation to the way we drive. Alert but calm, respectful of others. You never know that the Lord may be in the other car!
The hyperactivity of our society evident in the way we drive, especially at Christmas, emphasises our need for a saviour. All the activity hides the plight of many who are homeless or without much of a future in sight for their families. At the same time it reveals the hidden needs we all have that we try to fulfil with more and more excitement and possessions. We may not think of it in terms of needing a saviour but, for example, we hope for leaders who can solve our problems, save the economy, and so on. The readings of today, the Fourth Sunday of Advent deal with the hope of a saviour.
It is not recorded in the Gospels but Jesus and Satan are having an argument about who is the better computer programmer! Eventually God holds a contest with him as judge. They are to produce a new computer game in a certain period of time. So they begin furiously typing code into their computers for several hours to write the new game. Then, seconds before their time is up a bolt of lightening strikes taking out the electricity. Then, when the power is restored, God says the contest is over. He asks Satan what he has come up with. "Nothing. I lost everything when the power went out" said Satan. "Ok, let us see what Jesus came up with" God says. Jesus touches a few keys and a spectacular game comes to life. (Now you can see what is coming.) Satan asks, "How did he do it? I lost everything." God smiles and says: "Ah, because Jesus saves!"
A bit corny perhaps, but salvation is what Christmas is about.
King David was given the title of 'the anointed one', which in Hebrew is 'messiah' and 'Christ' in Greek. This was because of David's devotion to God and successful exploits in vanquishing his enemies and establishing a united people in Israel. Later on when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and the people were taken off into exile a fervent hope grew in the hearts of the Israelites that another great king would be sent by God to bring peace to the people once again. This hope grew into a national expectation that this future messiah would be a descendant of the greatest of Israel's kings, namely, David. In the Gospel today from Luke, Mary's answer to the angel is a direct response to this ancient expectation of a messiah from the throne of king David: "the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David" (Luke 1:32).
The old Beatles song "Let it Be" is said to have been inspired by a dream Paul McCartney had about his mother Mary who had died. He was experiencing a time of much anxiety and in the dream his mother came to him and said simply, "Let it be." So the song says, "When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be."
Today in the liturgy our gaze is directed to the scene of the Annunciation to Mary by Gabriel to be the Mother of Jesus. Our Christian history begins when Mary responded to the angel, "Let it be done unto me as you have said." Let it be. Hers was a whole hearted Yes, unlike Zechariah who wanted a sign from God when John the Baptist's birth was announced. Mary was no shrinking violet though. She did question the angel about the seeming impossibility of the project since she was a virgin. She did not ask for a sign, just how can it be?
We like Mary have to let God save us. We cannot do it ourselves. None of our frantic activity, religious or other wise, saves us. And we cannot save anyone else either, our children, parents, friends. Only God can. Jesus is God saving us. His name means "God saves".
As we are often reminded the best devotion to Mary is one that leads us to do what she did: say yes to accepting Jesus into our lives. As we read the Gospel we hear how she discerns her vocation. It was a discernment which too most of her life as she tried to understand the implications of her openness to God. In her we see a reflection of ourselves and of the Church also seeking to understand our part in God's plan of salvation.
Whether it be a crash on the highway caused by a distracted or reckless driver or a crash in the economy caused by a reckless or greedy investor we need a Saviour. A saviour who can save us from ourselves. We have such a saviour in Jesus whose birth we are about to celebrate.