BRINGING JESUS TO OTHER | December 19, 2021 – 4th Sunday of Advent
4th Sunday of Advent – Year C
A girl with zero interest in having a relationship met an amazing guy. A family friend. it all started on her birthday when he tried reaching out to her by messages, fb pings, calls, everything possible. He just wanted to wish her a happy birthday on her special day. The calls and chats became more frequent. They spoke for hours. A few days later, in her birthday month, she had to go for a surgery, she lied to him, she said was going on a trip and would not have access to phones. That lead to them not talking for a few days.
When she returned home, she told him that it was not a trip, but a cancer surgery that she’d gone for. The panic in his voice, in that dark silent night, echoed beyond the thousand miles that was between them. His voice gave away his feelings for her, this made them realize that there could be a “next level” to their friendship.
Neither of them wanted to give it a name yet and spent the time just “getting to know each other” until one day when it was all too obvious, she decided to move to his city to be closer to him. She expressed her love for him through an age-old styled letter.
They met for the first time in the four months of their phone conversations. That surreal moment, the hug that felt like the time had paused, the feeling of having your loved one in your arms and not on the other side of the computer screen was something beyond what words could fathom.
A few months later, she had to go back to her hometown, and he moved to a different city, but nothing changed. A year and a half later and only meeting a couple of times, their love grew fonder and the bond stronger.
While he’s at his workplace struggling to turn in a report and dreaming about the day when he’d get back home to be with the girl, she was responding to his question: “Yes, you are my love!”
We have come to the completion of our Advent Season as we light the 4th Candle which opens our hearts and minds to reflect on the theme of Love. The season of Advent basically is a time to reflect on the journey of Divine becoming Human as St. John says, “He became flesh and dwelt among us”. This journey started right before the creation of the world as Jesus said, “he was even before the world was created” and the author of Letter to Hebrews testifies in this way “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds”. St. Mother Teresa once said “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.”
God is faithful to His promises. The first reading from prophet Micah gives assurance to the Jews that God is faithful to His promises and that from the unimportant village of Bethlehem He will send them the long-expected ruler. From something insignificant, God brings out something significant. It doesn’t matter how insignificant your good deeds are, God always treasures them and makes something meaningful out of them. So be positive minded and never be discouraged in doing that little you can for others, in this period of Christmas. In the eyes of God nothing is little or useless because he has the power to raise the lowly and send the rich away empty. By the birth of the Lord, a city which has no name or reputation became the center of everyone’s life: “The Lord says to his people: “You, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah who are one of the little clans of Judea, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days”.
The following story though I have shared before but seems so appropriate to this Sunday’s liturgy that I am compelled to share with all of you. This story shows that we must bring Jesus to other people as Blessed Virgin Mary in the Gospel.
Every Sunday afternoon, after the morning service at their church, the Pastor and his 11-year-old son would go out into their town and hand out Gospel tracts. This Sunday afternoon, as it came time for the Pastor and his son to go to the streets with their tracts, it was very cold outside as well as pouring down rain. The boy bundled up in his warmest and driest clothes and said, “Okay Dad, I’m ready.”
His Pastor Dad asked, “Ready for what?
“Dad, it’s time we gather our tracts together and go out.”
Dad responds, “Son, it’s very cold outside, and it’s pouring down rain.”
The boy gives his dad a surprised look, asking, “But Dad, aren’t people still going to Hell, even though it’s raining?”
Dad answers, “Son, I am not going out in this weather.”
Despondently the boy asks, “Dad, can I go? Please?”
His father hesitated for a moment but said, “You can go. Here are the tracts; be careful, son.”
And with that, he was off and out into the rain. This 11-year-old boy walked the streets of the town, going door-to-door and handing everybody he met in the street a Gospel tract. After hours of walking in the rain, he was soaking bone-chilled wet and down to his very last tract. He stopped on a corner and looked for someone to hand a tract to, but the streets were totally deserted.
Then, he turned toward the first home he saw and started up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the doorbell. He rang the bell, but nobody answered. He rang it again and again, but still no one answered. He waited, but still no answer. Finally, this 11-year-old trooper turned to leave, but something stopped him. Again, he turned to the door and rang the bell and knocked loudly on the door with his fist. He waited, something holding him there on the front porch. He rang again, and this time the door slowly opened. Standing in the doorway was a very sad looking elderly lady.
She softly asked, “What can I do for you, son?”
With radiant eyes and a smile that lit up her world, this little boy said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry if I disturbed you, but I just want to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU! I came to give you my very last Gospel tract which will tell you all about Jesus and His great love.” With that, he handed her his last tract and turned to leave. She called to him as he departed, “Thank you, son! And God bless you!”
The following Sunday morning in church, Pastor Dad was in the pulpit and as the service began, he asked, “Does anybody have a testimony or want to say anything?”
Slowly, in the back row of the church, an elderly lady stood to her feet. As she began to speak, a look of glorious radiance came from her face. “None of you in this church know me. I’ve never been here before. Before last Sunday, I was not a Christian. My husband passed on some time ago, leaving me totally alone in this world. Last Sunday, being a particularly cold and rainy day, it was even more so in my heart as I came to the end of the line where I no longer had any hope or will to live.
“So I took a rope and a chair and ascended the stairway into the attic of my home. I fastened the rope securely to a rafter in the roof then stood on the chair and fastened the other end of the rope around my neck. Standing on that chair, so lonely and broken-hearted, I was about to leap off. When suddenly, the loud ringing of my doorbell downstairs startled me. I thought, ‘I’ll wait a minute, and whoever it is will go away.’ I waited and waited, but the ringing doorbell seemed to get more insistent and then the person ringing also started knocking loudly. I thought to myself again, ‘Who on earth could this be?! Nobody ever rings my bell or comes to see me!’ I loosened the rope from my neck and started for the front door. All the while, the bell rang louder and louder. When I opened the door and looked, I could hardly believe my eyes! There on my front porch was the most radiant and angelic little boy I had ever seen in my life! His smile! Oh, I could never describe it to you! And the words that came from his mouth caused my heart, that had long been dead, to leap to life as he exclaimed with a cherub-like voice, ‘Ma’am, I just came to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU.’ Then he gave me this Gospel tract that I now hold in my hand. As the little angel disappeared back out into the cold and rain, I closed my door and read slowly every word of this Gospel tract. Then, I went up to my attic to get my rope and chair. I wouldn’t be needing them anymore.
“You see, I am now a happy child of the King, and since the address of your church was on the back of this Gospel tract, I have come here to personally say, ‘Thank you to God’s little angel who came just in the nick of time and by so doing, spared my soul from an eternity in Hell.'” There were now no dry eyes in the church. As shouts of praise and honor to the King resounded off the very rafters of the building, Pastor Dad descended from the pulpit to the front pew where the little angel was seated. He took him in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably.
Do we bring Jesus to others?
The second reading encourages us to give thanks to Christ who offered the sacrifice of perfect obedience that liberated us from sin. At Christmas, we celebrate that unique sacrificial gift of Christ to the world. May our lives be sacrificial in this period of Christmas to reciprocate God’s gift of himself to us. Christmas brings so much to cherish and share our own memories. But one thing I think that can be said about Christmas, and maybe this is the right Sunday to say, it is that Christmas is a day that has a certain kind of atmosphere about it. It creates its own atmosphere, because of all the commercialization going on. And yet the playing of the carols, and all the beautiful ornaments, and things like that, lighten our hearts and are part of the season.
Also, it’s a time when we look forward to large family get togethers, perhaps, or old friends coming and exchanging greetings. There are so many people and groups who are trying to promote and encourage people to “Keep Christ in Christmas” which unfortunately is being replace by Happy Holiday Season. However, Christmas has its own atmosphere, and the atmosphere, at its best, is an atmosphere of kindness, love, acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion.
There is a story about an old British man in his little castle in England who had a daughter that had moved to Ireland. She was in Ireland for a few years, and they just weren’t talking because father and daughter had their difficulties. Both being quite stubborn, there was just this long silence., finally, about two weeks before Christmas, he picked up the phone invited her back to her home for the Christmas holidays. She was so overwhelmed she couldn’t believe it, because he had never shown an inch of moving in that direction. She was happy, she went, and they spent Christmas together and that was the best Christmas ever for father and daughter.
I truly believe that this is impossible to achieve unless Christ becomes the center of our Christmas celebration. What should we do to bring Jesus in Christmas? I believe we can walk today with Blessed Virgin Mary. The Gospel of this Fourth Sunday of Advent focuses on the figure of Mary, the Virgin Mother, expecting the birth of Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Let us fix our gaze upon her, a model of faith and of charity; and we can ask ourselves: what were her thoughts in the months while she was expecting? The answer comes precisely from today’s Gospel passage, the narrative of Mary’s visit to her elderly relative Elizabeth. The Angel Gabriel had revealed that Elizabeth was expecting a son and was already in her sixth month. So, the Virgin, who had just conceived Jesus by the power of God, set out with haste for Nazareth, in Galilee, to reach the mountains of Judea, and visit her cousin. What a wonderful gesture by Mother Mary to bring Jesus to Elizabeth and John? Do we bring Jesus to others?
Reflecting on the great Mystery of Christmas Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr once wrote “God is man’s glory. Man is the vessel which receives God’s action and all his wisdom and power. Just as a doctor is judged in his care for the sick, so God is revealed in his conduct with men. That is Paul’s reason for saying: God has made the whole world prisoner of unbelief that he may have mercy on all. He was speaking of man, who was disobedient to God, and cast off from immortality, and then found mercy, receiving through the Son of God the adoption he brings. If man, without being puffed up or boastful, has a right belief regarding created things and their divine Creator, who, having given them being, holds them all in his power, and if man perseveres in God’s love, and in obedience and gratitude to him, he will receive greater glory from him. It will be a glory which will grow ever brighter until he takes on the likeness of the one who died for him”. Blessed Virgin was the first disciple of Jesus who introduced Jesus to others even before he was born. St. Irenaeus continues to strengthen this mystery “He it was who took on the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin and rid the flesh of sin, as now condemned. He wanted to invite man to take on his likeness, appointing man an imitator of God, establishing man in a way of life in obedience to the Father that would lead to the vision of God, and endowing man with power to receive the Father. He is the Word of God who dwelt with man and became the Son of Man to open the way for man to receive God, for God to dwell with man, according to the will of the Father. For this reason, the Lord himself gave as the sign of our salvation, the one who was born of the Virgin, Emmanuel. It was the Lord himself who saved them, for of themselves they had no power to be saved. For this reason, Paul speaks of the weakness of man, and says: I know that no good dwells in my flesh, meaning that the blessing of our salvation comes not from us but from God. Again, he says: I am a wretched man; who will free me from this body doomed to die? Then he speaks of a liberator, thanks to Jesus Christ our Lord”.
Blessed Virgin Mary is greeted back and is being congratulated by Elizabeth: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”. And she immediately lauds Mary’s faith: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord”. The contrast is obvious between Mary, who had faith, and Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, who doubted, and did not believe the angel’s promise and therefore is left dumb until John’s birth. It is a contrast.
Holy Father Pope Francis says “This episode helps us to interpret the mystery of man’s encounter with God in a very special light. An encounter that is not characterized by astonishing miracles, but rather, is characterized by faith and charity. Indeed, Mary is blessed because she believed: the encounter with God is the fruit of faith”. Blessed Virgin Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, prepares us today to experience God’s presence in our lives and bring him to other people. Let’s bring Jesus to others during this Christmas season to experience his love as we light the 4th Candle of Advent.
Come Lord Jesus and fill our hearts with your everlasting Love, Amen.
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