Deacon Homily Hot Sheet 207
Fourth Sunday of Advent Dec. 22, 2013 (Lourdes)
Deacon Thomas Winninger, CSMA
Is. 7:10-14, Rom. 1:1-7, Mt. 1:18-24.
Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God, let it be as deep as the nether world or as high as the sky.


LISTEN! What do you hear? SH-H? What do you hear? What do you hear? In honesty Deacon, I do not hear anything. What am I suppose to hear? Well, like our forefathers, those who lived before the first Christmas, they heard angels, and prophets, and wise men and astrologers from the East? So, are we supposed to hear angels and prophets and sages in our life? No, we are supposed to hear God in our life.

The theme of today’s readings is all about Emmanuel, God is with us; God is in our lives. God is directing our lives through his son Jesus Christ. So what is God doing with your life? What signs are you receiving from your daily encounters with Him?  This advent has been a time to listen, to observe, to pray for insights, to find clarity about ourselves that prepares us to encounter him in Bethlehem. Will Jesus look at us and say, “I know who you are, I recognize you because you have become what I called you to be.” Or will he look into our eyes and ask, “Do I know you? What has become of the person I created you to be?”  WOW this will be quite an encounter either way.

You see, some of us ask God for a sign, “Help me O, Lord to understand your way for me. Help me to become the person you created me to be? Help me to clearly see what you are doing with my life? Surprise me, I am excited about being you son or daughter.”

Then others of us barter with God; we want it our way. We want to become the person we want ourselves to be. We have picked out a worldly role model or someone who we admire for what they have, what they have attained and we say to God, “Make me like that person and I will dedicate the rest of my life to you.” Or we say, “Give me what I want and I will sacrifice everything else.” No wonder we feel out of control and with no meaning or joy in our lives.

In the first reading Isaiah was saying to Ahaz the King of the southern Kingdom of Judah, open your heart to God and he will save you from Syria and the northern kingdom of Judah as they laid siege to Jerusalem. Ahaz wanted nothing to do with signs, but Isaiah gives it to him anyway. “A young woman will be with Child and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” Meaning God is with you, just surrender and you will be saved.

The psalmist sings, “Let the Lord enter, he is the king of glory.” That is, “Let the Lord into your life and he will bring you glory.” Many would say, “Well, he can enter my life anytime he wants to…he is God, isn’t he?” The answer is he can do anything he wants but he gave us free will. That means if God is to be with us, Emmanuel, we must open the door of our hearts to him; then we will become the person he wants us to be. 

The letter of Paul to the Romans reminds us that God penetrated the world through Mary and the intercession of the Holy Spirit. God did this to become like us in all things but sin. He did this to be with us. Emmanuel. Paul reminds us that through the gifts of grace and obedience to the faith he enables us to cooperate with the spirit of holiness to receive the joy of eternal life. 
In the beautiful infancy story by Matthew in the Gospel, we are called to think of the infant in the womb, of Joseph, son of David, how the angel appeared in the dream and made all things right. But maybe things are not all right for Joseph: was he thrilled about fathering a child that was not his. Was he thrilled that if he exposed Mary, the culture of the eastern Mediterranean could take her life for adultery? Was he right that everything was already worked out: the child was to be a boy and have the name Jesus. The early days of their marriage would be full of fear and flight. Remember the flight in the night to Egypt where they lived without friends and family until it was safe to return home. How many times do we feel that things are out of our control and are not turning out the way we had planned? But remember, based on the message of the angel, Joseph took Mary into his home. He accepted God in his life.
So what are we called to do as a result of these readings? First, and perhaps the most difficult is to surrender as Joseph did to the will of God. To really let God be with us.  Give up so to speak. “I am yours O, Lord, do with me as you will.” That means quit bartering with the Lord, “You do this, I will do this.” Second, to accomplish the first, we must put Him at the top of our lists. If we don’t do that we will miss the signs that lead us to him. We will miss the opportunities he sends into our lives with the people we meet, the things we encounter, and the situations in which we find ourselves. And third, reflect in these few days we have left before Christmas about what he is doing with our lives. Before we meet in Bethlehem seek to identify how much more we need to love, how much more we need to forgive, how much more we need to give of ourselves to others. For as Paul wrote to the Romans and Pope Francis lives each day as an example, “This is when we really practice our faith and discover God is with us.”
So now ask for a sign from the Lord, your God, let it be as deep as the nether world or as high as the sky.