Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Micah 5:1-4a
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45

God has always shown himself to us as a God of surprises—not fettered by the presuppositions of any society. He is the God beyond all expectations.

This is the sort of God that has been revealed to us from the beginning. The Chosen People should have been prepared for a Messiah — a Messiah who would not simply fulfill their expectations but would surpass them. They were not and, oddly enough, neither are many of us.

In the First Reading the prophet Micah proclaims the coming of a king to shepherd his people. He tells us that this king will come from Bethlehem and will emerge from the least of the clans of Judah. At the time, the Israelites in Jerusalem were under attack. The Assyrians were poised to attack so it was good news that they were going to have a strong leader. Their king would be born in Bethlehem a small and unimportant town. Even more surprising, a seemingly unimportant shepherd would carry out the will of God. In the light of the Gospel, we hear the announcement of a new David whose roots would be even more surprising than the original.   

The Fourth Sunday of Advent has always been “Mary’s Sunday” for me. She is as unexpected a gift as David. Those who are not Catholic sometimes wonder about our affection for Mary and wonder that the littlest child and the most scholarly Catholic professor share the same affection for the Mother of God. In the end, when the question is asked I sometimes find myself giving all the intellectual reasons and then thinking in my heart that it is implanted in our Catholic DNA.

The Gospel today is, again, “beyond all expectations.” It is not simply about swaddling clothes and mangers or a star in the East. It is about Mary reminding us what Jesus’ life really means. Mary is a contradiction in her own time. She is among the most vulnerable members of her society. She is poor; she is a woman. She has no husband.  She is a simple and generous woman who hurried to be with a cousin who needed her. From these humble origins comes a Messiah totally obedient to the One who sent him — a Lord who comes to do the will of another.  In short, Mary is what most would call powerless. But, God, contrary to all expectations, has chosen her.

Oddly enough, he has chosen us. Today’s liturgy is a powerful reminder that we too are to reach out to the most vulnerable of our society. During this season, we are reminded that God cares about the little ones of this world, those who cannot care for themselves: the unborn, the poor, the vulnerable, the weak and the disenfranchised.