Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent 2011
Can trust you with a secret? I have a confession to make. I love watching the TV programs called ‘Undercover Boss’, and ‘The Secret Millionaire’. I am always captivated by the idea of a boss or a millionaire going out of their own comfort zones and go undercover. They would work as one of the workers in their company or go as a volunteer to a certain organization in order to see first hand what it is like to be in the workplace, what it is like to be in someone’s shoes. I really like these projects because deep inside of me, I also have this inner desire to go undercover (not as a ‘boss’ or a ‘millionaire) because I don’t own a big company first of all, and secondly I don’t have millions of money with me. I just like these programs because of the certain and genuine experience of happiness, of surprise, of awe, of regrets sometimes, or rejoicing at the end of it, when the boss or the millionaire would reveal their real selves and reward or do something to the people concerned.
Friends, a week from now, we are going to celebrate Christmas once again. If you like, we may think that this time is a time when God has gone undercover. However, he did something more than just an undercover. He not only blows up his cover by coming to us in person, or ‘in the flesh’, the favourite term of St John the evangelist, but he really decides to live with us forever, to be our ‘friend’ for life, and most of all to really become human like us. But unlike the boss or the millionaire who would go back to their position in the society or in the company after their work as undercover, our God, the real master of everything and the source of all riches, stayed with us, and identified with us. This indeed is the reason for rejoicing. In fact this is the message of Christmas.
This is why the first word of the angel to Mary in our gospel for this fourth Sunday of Advent, is to ‘rejoice.’ As a Church, we are invited to continue rejoicing. But why should we rejoice? The answer is why not?
The Book of Samuel in our first Reading today would give us the first answer. Because God cares. Here we have David seriously thinking of building a house or a temple for God to dwell in. But God realizes the plan not for himself but for David. In effect, God was saying to David, ‘No you are not making a house for me. Instead I am making a house out of you, a dynasty that will be established forever.’ And we hear this promise being realized in Jesus Christ himself.
And what does it say to us now? That God cares for us. That God looks after us. That God has reserved a reward for us if we take him as the centre of our life. But we may say, ‘Oh, God doesn’t care about me. He didn’t answer my prayers. He turned off his hearing aid for my prayers.’ Yes, we may complain at times of our unanswered prayers, but have we asked how many times have we taken for granted for all those blessings God has given us, even us without asking, even us without praying for them? Friends one reason why we could not be happy is because we take many things for granted. And we take many things for granted because we tend to look for more appealing, more trendy, more updated, or more beautiful things. This means of course, more hours of work to get more money to buy more, to the extent of killing our own selves softly. There is a saying that goes: a person would spend all his or her health to acquire wealth, but when sick, he or she would spend all his/her wealth to restore his/her health. And who would be happy in the end? The hospital, or the doctor or the chemist. Happiness according to a Chinese proverb…is not having what you want but wanting what you have.
The Second reason for rejoicing is found in our Second Reading today. St Paul calls it a secret that is revealed to us in and through Jesus Christ. And what is this secret? The secret is that in Jesus Christ, God does not only reveal himself to us, but his motive of doing it is to invite us all, no matter who we are, what we do, wherever we are, to share in his divine life. This is an open invitation though. Over the centuries many people have responded well to his invitation. Meanwhile there are also people who have delayed or postponed their response. While there are who would just refuse the invitation outrightly. We can always refuse because of our freedom. But everyday, God is always there inviting us to come to him and to listen to his call, in the details of our daily living, in the smile of our neighbours, in the welcoming personality of the lady in the supermarket, etc.
The third reason for rejoicing today is found in the Gospel. An innocent, poor lady has made a big decision that changes her life forever. She decided to go for a ‘yes’ to God’s will for her and that alters the course of our salvation history. Because of her total ‘yes’ to God, Mary the closed door of heaven was opened up again for us. Because of her decision to let God use her as a living tabernacle, the bearer of the Son of God, she becomes our model of faith. She let God rule her life because she believes that God would keep her secure despite all odds she may have to face.
In a way Mary’s prayer then would have been like this: ‘Lord use me.’ Instead of Lord help me.’ This is also the way of the saints. And we are called to pass through this way. With this we can be assured of real and eternal happiness. Mary’s humility and sincerity enable her to utter the most beautiful word the master can hear from any servant: ‘I am a servant of the Lord, let it be done unto according to your word.’ Because of that she rejoices and sings: ‘Let my spirit rejoice, sing how great is the Lord.’ Looking at Mary then, we realize that true rejoicing is not accomplishing something great, but on what others have become because of us.
We therefore are to rejoice with Mary because of the many good things God has done for us. He didn’t come as a stalker or just a mere undercover, but really to understand fully our human situation by becoming one like us in order to bring us back to our original friendship with him. So let’s go on rejoicing then with this awareness as we come to celebrate the coming birthday of Christ Jesus our Saviour. Amen.