The Gospel Today
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Luke 1: 26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
Reflection (Sem. Jul Elden Nuique):
Near the end of today’s first reading from the second book of the prophet Samuel, Nathan tells King David about God’s promise, “And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm (NAB 2Sm 7, 12).” Even if the ancient historian who wrote the second book of Samuel did not intend to prophesy about the Messiah, we Christians justifiably understand this passage as referring to our Lord Jesus the Christ.
Today’s gospel reading from the account of Luke clarifies the extent of God’s promise to David. In the most impossible circumstances, the promised Savior is to be born through a Virgin, a woman who “does not know man (cf Lk 1, 34).” This answer of Mary to the angel Gabriel translates in our modern times as a female who has no intimate relations with a male, a virgin in the truest sense of the word. If we go back several centuries before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah, not knowing the full import of his prophecy, spoke “the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel (cf Is 7, 14).” Christians also understand this to refer to Jesus, and, rightly so, for it is in the Lord that the promises made to his ancestors come to fulfillment.
The significance of these readings to our celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Advent is their emphasis on the faithfulness of God and the lengths that He will go through to express His fidelity. In four days we celebrate the Birth of Christ and today’s readings show the purposefulness of God in sending His Son to the world to be born and to live as one of us. God knows that the noblest way to save us from sin is by assuming, taking into Himself, our entire humanity, except our sins. This manner of our salvation does not diminish our freedom. It does not take away our dignity formed as the image and likeness of God. It definitively proves the unconditional and limitless love that our Creator bears us.
What is expected of us as we appreciate this divine truth more fully? We are expected to live our lives as beloved sons and daughters of God: using our freedom lovingly, living our lives with dignity, and loving our fellow human beings as God loves us. Christ saved us at a certain point of human history, but he saved us once for all. As the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus suffered, died, and rose from the dead for all persons of all times. We have been loved by God even before we were formed in our mother’s womb. We have been saved by God even when we were sinners. Now that we are adopted sons and daughters of God, we owe it to ourselves to live our lives in a manner befitting our status. We do this by following the Ten Commandments in all our words and actions. We do this by living out the Beatitudes. We do this by following the example set by Christ in the Gospel. We do this by being faithful Christians, living within the Church, loving our community, embracing our crosses in life, and trusting in the presence of God. If we live as Jesus lived and obey the teachings of the Church, then we are faithful to our status as children of God.