Sunday, 18 December 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the fourth and the last of the Sundays of the Advent season, reminding us all that Christmas is coming very soon and Advent is already ending. It seems that it was just yesterday that Advent started, is it not? But that is the reality, that time passes on, and sometimes really quickly before we realise that much time has actually passed. A good question to ask ourselves now is, how has our Advent journey been so far? Has it been meaningful and fruitful for us? Has it been good in preparing ourselves for the upcoming celebration of the Nativity or the birth of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ? Or have we instead been preparing ourselves for Christmas in the wrong way?

We do not have to look far, and we just have to open our eyes and see everything all around us. Except in places where Christians cannot worship in the open or where Christian influences and festivities are banned or not allowed, virtually everywhere else in the world, Christmas celebrations and festivities have been all around us for weeks or even months as of now. Yet, in most of all those festivities, celebrations and merrymaking, something and someone is indeed inconspicuously missing from all the celebrations. Ironically, this One Who is missing is exactly the One for Whom the celebrations we have at Christmas had been intended to, and Christmas is indeed about Christ first and foremost. It marks the moment when the Lord Jesus, Son of God, was born into this world, revealing God’s perfect and enduring love, manifested and personified, becoming tangible and approachable by us.

And yes, that is exactly what we should be focusing on this Sunday, brothers and sisters in Christ, rather than the many distractions that the secular Christmas pageantries and festivities have presented to us. This Sunday, just as in the previous Sundays of Advent, we focus on a particular theme or aspect of this Advent season, beginning with Hope at the first Sunday when we reminded ourselves of the Hope we have in the coming of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the Hope out of the darkness and despair reigning all around us. And then we have Peace at the second Sunday, where we focus ourselves on the upcoming Peace that God Himself will bring in the end, in His role as the Prince of Peace, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Who will rule over all of His people, reuniting all of them in peace, harmony and love. Then, on the third Sunday of Advent last week, also known as Gaudete Sunday we have focused on the aspect of Joy, where we rejoice in the coming of the true Joy of Christmas, that is Christ Himself.

And lastly this Sunday, we focus on the theme and aspect of Love, the Love of God made Man, personified and manifested in Jesus Christ, Our Lord. This theme of Love is arguably the most important of all, as it is the enduring and ever-present Love that God has for each and every one of us is the very reason why we still have Hope in Him, and why we can look forward to His reign of Peace, and for the Joy of His everlasting kingdom and our eternity of true happiness and bliss with Him. Without the Love of God, none of these would and will have been possible. If God had not loved us, upon our rebellion and disobedience against Him, in refusing to follow His Law and commandments, and in choosing to listen to Satan and his lies instead, we could have easily been crushed and annihilated by God, by the mere whim of His Almighty will alone.

We could have been condemned to an eternity of suffering in hell, sharing the fate of the devil and all of the wicked spirits, the fallen angels and demons, and we could have endured all those punishments and sufferings because of our lack of faith in Him, our stubborn attitude and refusal to believe in Him. Yet, despite all of our delinquencies and stubbornness, God is Himself equally persistent in loving us and caring for us, still reaching out to us and trying to help us, because ultimately, He had created us out of His overflowing and perfect love, that He willingly shares with each and every one of us. Although we may have scorned and rejected His love, He never ceased to love us all, most patiently, and sending unto us reminders and helpers, like what we heard in our first reading of the encounter between the prophet Isaiah and King Ahaz of Judah.

At that occasion, the prophet Isaiah came bearing God’s words to King Ahaz, the ruler of Judah, the southern half of the kingdoms established over the people of Israel. And back then, the northern half of the kingdom, the kingdom of Israel centred in Samaria had just been destroyed and crushed by the Assyrians, who came and conquered Samaria, defeated the Israelites, and uprooted many of them to be exiled to far-off and distant lands, replacing them with foreigners from other parts of the world. Only the kingdom of Judah therefore remained among those people of God back then. The northern kingdom fell because of the constant wickedness of its people and how most of its kings and people continued to worship pagan idols and gods, persecuting the prophets and messengers that God had sent to them.

And although the southern kingdom of Judah was comparatively better, with several good and faithful kings, there had also been a lot of wickedness committed by the people of Judah, in not listening to God and His reminders, and in similarly persecuting the prophets and messengers sent to remind them to keep the faith. King Ahaz himself was one of the kings deemed by the historians and writers of the Old Testament records as an evil king, one who disobeyed the Lord and brought the people into sinful ways. When God sent Isaiah to Ahaz as we heard in our first reading today, we heard how the King of Judah refused to ask for a sign from God as Isaiah told him, and as a result, Isaiah told the king that God Himself will, in due time, show the greatest of all signs to His people, the sign of the Emmanuel, of the Virgin who would bear a Child.

Some of us may think that King Ahaz was being humble in not asking for a sign from God, but the truth is, it is more likely that he did so out of his lack of faith in God, and also he did not believe much in the signs and wonders that God had done for His people through His many prophets in the ages past. Not only that, but sometimes true humility also entails obedience, as by not doing what God had asked him to do also has the implication of pride, as the king might have thought that he had no need of God’s signs, protection and providence, and that he could do everything all by himself, despite the rising issues and troubles facing the kingdom of Judah back then, surrounded on all sides by its many enemies, and threatened by the rising might of Assyria which had just destroyed the kingdom of Israel to the north of Judah.

Hence, God proclaimed through Isaiah what He would do nonetheless, to show us all, the whole world, of His love for each one of us, that He sends unto us, His Love manifested through His Son, the Divine Word of God Incarnate. He became Emmanuel, ‘God is with us’, that He came to dwell amongst us, in our midst, in the flesh. He made Himself tangible, approachable and touchable by us, giving us this perfect manifestation of this Love, which is reiterated again in our Gospel passage today from the Gospel of St. Matthew, where again, the fact that God Himself has come to dwell among His people, Emmanuel, God Who is with His people, showed His great love by willingly coming down to us to be with us, loving us all most dearly and wonderfully with His ever generous love.

This same love is the love that Christ showed us all, when He picked up His Cross and walked that path of suffering, the Via Dolorosa, from Jerusalem where He was scourged and condemned to death, to Golgotha or Calvary where He was nailed to His Cross and made to suffer a most painful and humiliating death for us. He became for us the perfect offering of Love, the Paschal Lamb, the Lamb of God sacrificed and crushed for all of us, and Himself as our Eternal High Priest offering this perfect sacrifice of love, most unblemished and perfect in all things, for the complete atonement of our innumerable sins, and for the redemption of all mankind. To all those who share in His Most Precious Body and Blood, in the Eucharist, worthily, He has given us the assurance of eternal life and joy, as we have received the Love of God Himself into our midst, and into ourselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we reflect upon this theme and aspect of Love, let us all therefore keep reminding ourselves of the Love which God has for each and every one of us, and the Love which made all things possible for us, that Hope, Peace and Joy can come our way once again, because the Love of God had been made incarnate in the flesh and born of the Virgin, Mary His mother, and which we celebrate most joyfully as Christmas. Therefore, if our Christmas preparations and celebrations have been mostly or even entirely secular and worldly in nature, perhaps it is not yet too late for us to change our direction and focus. Christmas is still a full week away from today, and there are a lot of things that we can do in this one week to prepare ourselves so that we can celebrate Christmas most worthily and meaningfully.

First of all, let us all as Christians be filled with God’s love, and show that same love in our lives and actions just as He has taught us to do. His Law and commandments are essentially about us loving God first and foremost before all else, and then loving one another just in the same way as well. We have to love our fellow brothers and sisters more, and grow ever more in our love for God and our faith and trust in Him as well, with every celebrations of Christmas. This time and season of Advent is a really good time to remind us to reconnect ourselves with God especially if we have allowed our busy schedules and life activities to distract and make ourselves becoming more and more distant from God. We also cannot allow ourselves to be swayed by so much festivities and merrymaking that we forget to remember that even in our midst, there are people who are still suffering, and unable to rejoice or celebrate due to various reasons.

Let us all be the bearer of God’s Love, as well as His Hope, Peace and Joy to our communities, to our families and circles of friends and even to all those strangers and all whom we encounter each day throughout life, so that through us, more and more people may come to experience God’s love, of Christ’s love having been made manifested in our midst. May the Lord, our most loving God and Father, continue to shower us with His love and kindness at all times. May He show us the path of love and justice, for us to follow, and encourage and strengthen us along the journey that we may continue to persevere faithfully in walking the path of righteousness and love that we should be walking on as Christians. May God bless us all and be with us all, now and always, evermore. Amen.

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