God's Best Wish for Us

12-23-2018Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

This year Christmas jumps out at us all of sudden. This very weekend is the Fourth Weekend (Sunday) of Advent and then “there you have it!” Christmas Eveis the next day. We are almost caught unaware that the day has arrived. The message of our Sunday readings does not have time to dwell in our hearts this week and take effect. Sunday’s Mass is a just a breath and then we start Christmas.

The prophet for our first reading is rather a different type of man. Micah was a simple country folk person. He was not from a prominent family or, as is used in social code so much today, “a good person.” His plainness and deep passion for social justice made him a soulmate of his contemporary prophet Amos. We owe to this humble Micah a great debt of gratitude for giving us the memorable words that tell us that the Lord asks us “only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Today’s first reading gives us Micah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah. In the name of God, Micah addresses the insignificant and very small town of Bethlehem whose name means the “house of bread.” It was the ancient city of the great king David and also where the hoped-for ruler-Messiah will appear, the one who will shepherd his people by the strength of the Lord. Micah says the greatness of this ruler will stretch to the very ends of this earth. This ruler will be peace; he will not just bring peace. Micah also says this peace is God’s will for us.

Our Gospel passage gives truth to the prophecies we have heard from Micah. A young woman expecting a child travels into the hill country to offer her help to an older expectant woman, her cousin Elizabeth. And Elizabeth speaks to Mary in the words we use to this day to honor her: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).

Elizabeth poignantly asks how she can possibly be so blessed as to be part of such a great grace and privilege. As we read along in the Gospel of Luke, we learn that Mary does not answer this question, because it, in fact, is unanswerable. Mary, instead, joins in a song of praise. The prayer of praise we have come to know as the Magnificat is attributed to Mary.

And we know this is just the beginning. The very earth is the focus of God’s attention. All people throughout time are invited to follow the will of God. “Will” is a strange and difficult word for us, for we frequently equate it with a kind of power that scares us. We resist what we take to be the strong will of another. But the will of God is indeed another matter entirely. We need to remember that this “will” of God is not God’s pushiness or need to control the world and everyone in it. Instead, God’s will is God’s desire, in fact, God’s best wish for us. We see in the second reading that Jesus came to bring to fullness God’s desire or “will.” And this will, as we see in the first reading, is our peace and our joy. Discerning and following the will of God in our lives can give us deep peace and meaning each day.

On behalf of our Parish Ministerial, Pastoral and Professional Staff, along with Father Jack, Deacon Guy and myself, I want to wish you and all those you hold close in your hearts a Blessed and Merry Christmas and Holy and Happy New Year. As we celebrate during these days the Birth of Christ our Savior, may you find peace and joy now and for the weeks and days ahead.

Father Brian