By: By Msgr. Stuart Swetland
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Dec. 21
2 Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12,14a,16; Psalm 89:2-3,4-5,27,29; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
Sometimes a wait can seem forever. A traffic jam, long check-out lines, a doctor’s office, the airport — all of these can try one’s patience and make time seem to stand still. For children, the wait for Santa to arrive can seem forever and their increasing anxiousness can cause the adults in their lives to share their frustration.
But whatever waiting we have to endure is nothing compared with the length of time that the chosen people waited for the Messiah. In today’s first reading, we hear of the revelation to Nathan the prophet that God was going to “establish a house” for Daniel and that an heir of his would be raised up to establish a kingdom that would endure forever (2 Samuel 7). These events took place around the year 1000 B.C. For close to 10 centuries, the people of Israel had been waiting for this promise of God to be fulfilled. Fifty generations had come and gone without the Messiah.
But, unbeknownst to almost everyone, things were about to change. The Archangel Gabriel comes to an obscure part of Galilee to a poor, teenage girl named Miriam (Mary) to deliver to her a most stupendous proposal: she was created by God to be the mother of the Messiah. After prayerful dialogue, Mary accepts her vocation and with her “fiat” God enters our human history.
Mary’s “yes” to God began for her a great adventure of love filled with joy and hope; grief and suffering. The waiting of her people had ended, but for her a new waiting began: the “waiting” to give birth; the “waiting” as Jesus “grew in age and grace and wisdom before God and man” (Luke 2:40); the “waiting” as he left home to begin his public ministry; the “waiting” at the foot of the cross as she watched her son die a gruesome death; and the “waiting” between his death and the resurrection, which confirmed the fidelity of God.
Mary’s grace-filled waiting is an inspiration to us all. It is important to note that her “waiting” was not a passive, inactive thing. Rather it reveals a faith-filled “tirelessness” that is rooted in a deep hope and an authentic love. Mary believed that God’s promise to her and her people would be fulfilled. She knew firsthand the infinite love of God and responded to his love with love. In all things, she was a determined and tireless disciple of God.
If you are like me, this time of the year can seem exhausting. It can be easy to give in to the temptation to “give up” on things spiritual for awhile. The business of each day can easily distract. The “immediate” can crowd out the important. The “inn” of our busy lives can be so overcrowded that there seems little room for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to dwell there.
Father Alfred Delp, SJ, priest and martyr, spoke of the need for the virtue of tirelessness during the last Advent of his life in December 1944. He wrote from a Nazi prison: “All of this is waiting and keeping watch for the coming of the Lord. . . . We must know the intimacy of God, the certainty of God within life. This great virtue of tirelessness is called for here: the tirelessness, which is touched by the Lord and, with the strength from his touch, keeps rubbing the sleep from its eyes and stays awake. . . . [K]eep journeying and keep awake. This is the law of the successful and liberated life.”
May you and yours always know the intimacy of God and the certainty of his presence in your lives. And may the grace of the newborn Babe keep you tireless in the face of all the struggles and difficulties that life may bring. Keep journeying and keep awake for the Lord is near.
Merry Christmas and blessings on your New Year!
A priest of the Diocese of Peoria, Msgr. Stuart Swetland is vice president for Catholic identity and mission at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.