December 22, 2019
22 Dec 2019 A Father who keeps His promises
Fourth Sunday of Advent
In December 1988, an earthquake devastated the northwestern section of Armenia and killed 25,000 people. At the time of the earthquake, a boy named Armand was attending school. After the earthquake, Armand’s father rushed to his son's school to look for him but found the school had been flattened and there was no sign of life. Although the situation looked hopeless, Armand’s father began removing rubble by hand from a spot where his son’s classroom used to be.
Most people gave up hope that any of the students could have survived, but Armand’s father kept digging. After digging for 38 hours straight, the voices of the children could be heard. Armand and 13 of his classmates had survived in a small pocket deep inside the rubble. You can imagine the reunion these parents and children had after the rescue.
While growing up, Armand’s father often told him, “No matter what, I’ll always be there for you when you need me.” Armand remembered this and during the rescue, he was able to comfort his classmates with an unwavering confidence in his father. This desperate situation was transformed by a loving father who kept his promise.
In our Gospel today we hear of another promise kept by a loving Father. Almighty God, our Father, kept His promise by sending His only Son, born of a virgin, just as Isaiah prophesied in our 1st reading. The birth of Jesus on Christmas was a fulfillment of this promise.
As it turns out, this was just one of many promises or covenants that God made with His people throughout history. A covenant is a promise made between God and mankind to establish a sacred bond. Just as marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a women, God has established covenants with His people out His love for us. His ultimate purpose is to reunite the entire human race, which was broken by sin, pride and violence. You may remember:
- God promised Adam and Eve their Descendant would crush the head of the serpent.
- God promised to keep Noah and his family safe through the flood.
- God promised Abraham his descendants would flourish in the Promised Land.
- God promised Moses that He would lead His people out of bondage in Egypt.
- God promised David a kingdom with an everlasting throne and that his Descendant would rule all nations with divine wisdom.
- And finally, our Heavenly Father fulfilled all of His previous promises with the gift of Jesus, born of a virgin on Christmas. Jesus ratified this New Covenant by offering his Body and Blood on the cross, which permanently binds all of us together into one divine family. His Resurrection was the fulfillment of His Own prophecy and proves His identity as the Son of God.
People often think of religion as man’s search for God but Christianity is just as much God’s search for us. This is especially true in the name given to Jesus: Emmanuel which means “God is with us”. The salvation history we just heard is the story of God continually seeking us out to heal the relationship broken by our sin and restore His presence among us.
God did not intend for His presence to be encountered only by those living 2000 years ago. As Matthew, Chapter 18 tells us, God is with us anytime 2 or 3 are gathered in His name. God is with us in the poor, in the Scripture, in the Sacraments and especially in the Eucharist where we are able to consume His Body and Blood.
We’ve heard about how God continues to pursue a relationship with us. So how do we return that love and affection for Him? First of all, we can take to heart the Words of Jesus: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love and forgive our enemies.
We can also take to heart the lesson from Armand, the little boy buried with his classmates in the earthquake. We know life is full of tragedies and there are probably times when we feel like we are buried in the rubble, with no chance to escape. These are the times when our faith is most important. We may not understand the reason for the tragedy, but we can have faith that God’s loving plan for our lives will save us.
Just as important is our response to those around us. Armand was buried with his classmates but was able to sustain and encourage them with the confidence he had in his father. Our challenge is to find ways to imitate Armand’s example by sharing our faith and the confidence we have in our heavenly Father. Our challenge is to sustain and encourage the family and friends that may be buried with us under the rubble during the next tragedy.
As we look forward to Christmas, let us always give thanks for a loving Father who keeps His promises.