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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

In our Gospel today, we see the fulfillment of a hope. For nearly a thousand years, almost from the time of King David, the Jewish people were hoping for a new king, a Messiah, who would conquer the Gentile occupiers. This Messiah would rule over the people of Israel, and they would live in great prosperity and peace. Although he was not what they expected, Jesus' first coming fulfilled the hope of Israel for a new king to rule over them. His second coming will be the fulfillment of our hope for salvation.

I think most of us know the story presented in the first reading. King David had all but subdued the enemies of the Israelite nation, and now the kingdom of Israel was in peace. The Ark of the Covenant was still in a tent, as it was during the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, while David resided in a palace made of stone and cedar wood. King David wanted to build a home for God among the people of Israel, as they were no longer nomadic and had no need to wander the countryside looking for places to set up camp. If the people of Israel were to live in Holy Land, the temple of God should also be a stable place within the city of Jerusalem.

It was not in God's plan, however, that David be the one to build the temple, but David received the promise from God that his kingdom would last forever. He was promised a descendant who would call God his father, and God would call Him son. The coming of Our Lord not only fulfilled this promise to Israel, but created a new hope for all the nations.

King David wished to build a house for God in Jerusalem so that He would live among his people on Earth. It wasn't until David's son, Solomon, was ruling the kingdom of Israel that David's wish for a house of God came to fruition. The Israelites viewed the Temple as more than just a mere symbol, but as truly where God resided here on earth. The Israelites were the chosen people of God, and He lived among them in the Temple.

When Our Lord came to Earth as a fulfillment of the promise to David, he didn't descend to Earth on a fiery chariot, but chose to live among us silently. For the first nine months of his existence on Earth, Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was truly the House of God, the first dwelling place of Jesus. Just as the Temple was the dwelling place of God among the Israelite people, Our Lady became the dwelling place of God among all the nations. The hope of the people of Israel is now the hope of all peoples.

We often don't understand what it means to have hope. Sometimes we use the word 'hope' as a synonym to 'wish' or 'desire'. We might say something like, “I hope it's not cold tomorrow,” or a child might say, “I hope I get a video game for Christmas.” In contrast to this common view, Mary shows us what it truly means to have hope in God through her openness to His will. Her hope was not a vague wish or desire, but was a complete and total trust in God's promise to His people.

Because of Mary's hope in God, the hope of all of Israel rests in her womb, silently waiting for the day in which He is to be revealed to the whole world. Patience is a virtue that many of us lack, myself included, but this season is one of patience. We're patiently waiting for the celebration of Our Lord's birth, but we're also patiently waiting for His return. Just as Our Lord was born at the proper time, He will return at the proper time.

This patience should flow from our hope in His promised return, as hope is essential to being a Christian. We must hope that Our Lord will be with us during times of difficulty or times of joy. We hope that those we love will be with Him in Heaven after their deaths, and we hope that those newly born and baptized members of our families will grow up knowing and loving Him. Most importantly, we hope for that day when he will return again, and lead us all to the Promised Land, nomads no longer. Now, however, we wait with anticipation and hope for the celebration of His birth on Christmas. Come, Emmanuel!

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