The readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent show us how the will of God moves relentlessly forward, accomplishing His purposes.
Through Micah, the Lord tells us that from the small town of Bethlehem “shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler of Israel.” He “shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of God. … His greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.”
The second reading from the Book of Hebrews tells us how Christ established Himself as ruler. He didn’t do it by offering many sacrifices. “Then I said, ‘As it is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.’”
Adam and Eve, by their disobedience, lost for all of mankind the right to enter Heaven. “Then he says, ‘Behold, I come to do your will’. …By this ‘will’ we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Christ, by His obedience to the Father, won back for us the sanctifying grace that gains us entry into eternal glory. His obedience to the Father’s will consecrates us.
In Mary, Christ took on our flesh, and in subjecting Himself on the Cross to the will of the Father, He won for us the power to say ‘yes’ to God’s will and ‘no’ to sin. That means that every time I say ‘yes’ to God’s will for me, God’s power is unleashed to flow through me with power to do what is right and just. That unites me more closely to Jesus and to the Father.
This in turn brings joy to my heart. Obedience to God always brings with it peace and joy. These are signs that God is dwelling within me for others to see. By my obedience, I help draw others to Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel, we see this joy exploding in the meeting of Mary with Elizabeth in Zechariah’s house. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.’”
Recall that the second reading from Hebrews tells us: “When Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.’” This body began to take shape in Mary’s womb when she responded to Gabriel’s invitation with the words, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.”
Mary’s obedience to God in the Annunciation continues to move forward the kingdom of God, together with the joy that comes from that obedience. In the silence of the womb, Jesus is continually obedient to the Father’s will. He embraces the limitations of the womb, the poverty of the stable as His birthing place, and even the manger as His crib. He entrusts Himself to Mary and Joseph when they fled into Egypt to save His life.
Through the obedience of Jesus and Mary, the Father’s plan for our redemption moves forward. His proclamation of the Kingdom of God cost Him much suffering. In the Gospel of John He tells us: “I do only what I see the Father doing … the Father is working and I am working.”
In the garden, when the time of the Passion had arrived, Jesus said, “Father, not my will but thy will be done.” He endured the excruciating sufferings of the Cross in order to merit for us the power to say “yes” to God’s will and “no” to our will and the temptations of the Evil One. “By this ‘will,’ we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
By Christ’s obedience to the Father’s will, we have been given the power to say ‘yes’ to God’s will and to unleash God’s redemption in our lives. By saying ‘yes’ to God’s will, we overcome temptation and heal our wounded nature. All of this brings us the incredible peace and joy for which our hearts hunger.
However, to say ‘yes’ to the Father’s will takes a very lively prayer life as well as a very lively sacramental life. It requires coming daily before our God, asking from Him the graces we need to recognize and embrace His will, as well as to humbly ask for His merciful forgiveness for our failures.
However, this is the rich life of preparing our hearts for the glory of eternity. In this rich life, suffering for the sake of the kingdom is divine energy that propels us forward, and brings with it a profound sense of joy and peace. When we live a life of obedience to the Father’s will, we are “a light to the world.”
We are presently experiencing the birth pangs of Christ’s preparing us for eternal glory. May He use us as joyful witnesses to the goodness that obedience releases in us. Mary said, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.” Jesus said, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” Embracing these two words is already embracing a touch of glory.