Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent year A 2013
Someone asked me just very recently” ‘Brother do you believe in God?’ I readily answered without thinking: ‘Of course, I am a priest for God’s sake.’ However, that particular question made me think deeper on my faith. It reminded me of what my former Spiritual director in the seminary in the Philippines, reminded us seminarians in one of our retreats. He said to us: ‘If you really wanted to be a priest, if you really wished to live your life as a priest, you’d better believe in God, otherwise, you’d never get there. I took that recommendation by my Spiritual director seriously and here I am, a priest. I am not saying that those who didn’t become priests didn’t believe in God at all. It is just that it is not enough just to believe in God, without living it out in our lives, in our words and in our actions, without taking it seriously.
It is true too that at times, our belief caused us to doubt or even brings out ‘troubles’ or challenges in our lives, yet this must not discourage us, rather this must motivate us to keep up the faith, keep the relationship with God going, and hang in there. Yes, at times, things might be unbearable, or very hard to understand, but if we have God in our lives- as the saying goes: ‘He may not make the mountain smaller, but he could make the climb easier.’ Our problems, burdens and troubles might still be there, but with God in our lives, we can cast all of them to him, and in him we can have a rest.
Christmas is fast approaching. It is an opportunity for us to reflect again on our belief in God, NOT as someone who is far and distant, but someone who is so close to us, as a God-with-us, the God who is coming through and coming to stay.
So the question for us to reflect on: ‘Is the Spirit of Christmas, i.e. Christ, Our God and our Saviour, in our hearts’ as we gather with our family and friends, as we exchange gifts and cards, as we catch up with one another over Christmas parties and dinners?’
To answer this, we can learn from St Joseph and Mary as to how they prepare themselves for Christmas. How are they preparing for the coming of God-made-man into their lives as part of their human family? What was the quality of their response to the presence of God among them?
First, Joseph, though caught up in a bit of trouble and reluctance there, he still believed and trusted that what happened to him and to Mary is part of God’s plan for them, that it is God’s will for both of them. We heard that Joseph was thinking of cancelling his marriage with Mary because she got pregnant, and he knew he wasn’t the father of the child she bore. We can only imagine Joseph’s reaction when Mary told her of the news. ‘You’re what?’ he could have said. ‘And by whom?’ In our lives too, there might be things that are too good to be true, or too hard to believe, but this is how God works at times. He is a God of surprises one Christian writer would say.
Mary too, could teach us a way to respond to the presence of God among us especially at Christmas. She makes herself completely available for God, no matter what it takes, and no matter what it means for her. ‘Let it be done unto me according to thy Word’, she’d say to the Messenger. She could do this because of her humility, her faith, and her openness to God. Like Mary and as Christmas is coming fast, we are also invited to make ourselves completely available for God. To make this happen is to ‘see others’ through the eyes of Christ. Christ sees each one of us, not just one of the sinners, but one who worth saving and worth dying for.’ So when we are walking on the streets, especially this time, or as we are driving around, and being caught with the Christmas frenzy, let’s show to others that CHRISTMAS is making Christ present in our lives and in our world today by being ourselves instruments of Christ’s love, care, compassion, generosity and support for one another. Let us give love this Christmas. Let us give Jesus to those who haven’t heard of him or those who have started to forget him and to those who longed to see Him but NO ONE is showing them the way. We are to remember always CHRISTMAS is not just about waiting for the baby in the manger, it is also about the ‘CHRISTS’ on the streets asking for loose change, the old lady in the supermarket pushing her trolley, the old man and woman in the home with no family to celebrate Christmas with, the young family across the road who are struggling with their mortgage, the child in the neighborhood who is being bullied, etc.
It is important to put this in mind too, that no matter how beautifully wrapped the gift is or how lovely the wrapping paper is, what matters most is what’s inside. So no matter how much fun we have this Christmas or how many gifts we have received, if CHRIST –the true meaning of Christmas is not there in our hearts, we would just end up being empty and feeling drained…for no reasonable reason.
As we come closer to Christmas, let us ask ourselves: ‘Has Christ got a place in our dining table and in our hearts this Christmas?’