The Immanuel Prophecy
10 Moreover the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying,
11 “Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!”
13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?
14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel
15 Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.
16 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Prayer for Israel’s Restoration
1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!
2 Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up Your strength, and come and save us!
3 Restore us, O God; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!
4 O Lord God of hosts, how long will You be angry against the prayer of Your people?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in great measure.
6 You have made us a strife to our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!
17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.
18 Then we will not turn back from You; revive us, and we will call upon Your name.
19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God
2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,
3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,
4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name,
6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ Born of Mary
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus [literally, Savior], for He will save His people from their sins.”
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and kept her a virgin till she had brought forth her a Son. And he called His name Jesus.
The following homily is prepared by Reverend Monsignor Russell G. Terra, Pastor Emeritus of Saint Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Redding, CA.
4th Sunday of Advent
December 22, 2019
“The Obedience of Faith”
My Brothers and Sisters in the Lord –
One of the challenges we continue to face throughout our life is to take good and sound advice when we are on the wrong track. Taking advice is often difficult because our minds can be pretty well made up before that advice is forthcoming. That advice might be how to do something in a better way. It might also be a warning against something that will do harm to ourselves or to others.
When we heed sound advice, we are usually pleased with a good outcome – or with the resolution of the problem we were facing. However, when we fail to take good advice, we have no one to blame but ourselves when we are faced with the negative consequences of our decision.
Some of the best advice we can receive sometimes comes directly from God Himself. God is continually calling us to good and better things. God speaks to us, often, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. However, this is usually a quiet or subtle intimation. But it can also be powerful and overwhelming as well!
Of course, the most difficult advice to accept is that which comes from someone we dislike – or from someone who opposes us on other levels. This was certainly the case of the advice given to King Ahaz in the passage from Isaiah today.
Prophets always call us to task – They usually face us with unwelcome truths! Israel and Syria wanted Judah to join their coalition against Assyria. Instead, Ahaz sought to be united with Assyria itself. However, this was not God’s way. God had a better plan – a hidden plan – which would, somehow, preserve the Chosen People of Judah. King Ahaz was even told to ask for a sign from God. But in his intransigence, he refused.
So God gave him a sign anyway. One of the maiden wives of Ahaz would
conceive and bear a son. His name would be Emmanuel which means “God is with us.”
God would not abandon the Chosen People – He would continue to be with at least the faithful few, the “Remnant”, – until the Eternal Emmanuel was born in their midst!
In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph is one of the greatest examples we can have of someone who listened to the voice of God and followed God’s plan. Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant with someone else’s child. Since betrothed couples had conjugal rights, any unfaithfulness was considered to be adultery, which was punishable with death by stoning.
However, Joseph was better than that. He planned to divorce Mary quietly – thus allowing her to marry whomever fathered her child. So God spoke to Joseph – and Joseph listened and obeyed. Being a truly good man, he, somehow, understood that God had a master plan that would save a sinful world – So Joseph accepted his new role as part of a mystery that required great faith and trust.
St. Paul was so conformed to the call of God in his life that he tells us that he is the slave of Christ Jesus. Initially, it took a vision and blindness to get Paul’s attention. However, it really changed the course of his life. Paul tells us that we must have the “obedience of faith”. The word “obedience” means “to listen, to harken and accept” – to implement what we have been told. And “faith” is our relationship with God. Faith is something intangible, beyond anything material – that we cannot even begin to describe!
Brothers and Sisters, the Child born to us in just 3 days will always make demands of us. His Gospel is truly Good News – but it requires much on our part. It requires that we are always open to what God asks us to do or be. Hopefully, we will not be like Ahaz who refused to listen, and lost everything. Instead, we are invited to be like Mary, our mother, who said “yes” to the angel of God – and like Joseph, who was unafraid to set his plans aside and embark upon a path only gradually revealed to him by God.
So, let us pray today, that we can listen and respond to God’s call in obedience – however and whenever it comes!
December 22, 2019 Msgr. Russell G. Terra