Homily for December 21, 2014: 4th Sunday of Advent: Deacon Dave McGhee

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 21, 2014

Reading 1 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

Responsorial Psalm Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27-29

R/ For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2 Rom 16:25-27

Gospel Lk 1:26-38

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“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Do not be afraid.”  It seems ironic to speak of fear as the joyous feast of Christmas approaches, yet here is the Angel Gabriel instructing Mary,  “Do not be afraid.”

Most of us are snug and warm in our homes, busily preparing for Christmas, eagerly anticipating family get-togethers, gifts, wonderful meals, parties, and time spent with good friends.  Yet fear is never far away.

  • Perhaps we fear that we may not have bought the right gifts for our loved ones.
  • Perhaps we fear that we might lose our jobs and fear financial consequences.
  • Perhaps we fear the high heating bills of this winter season.
  • Perhaps we fear loss of our health.
  • Perhaps we fear death, or that of a loved one.
  • Or any one of a thousand fears that could be hovering over us. 

Fear is real, and we’ve all experienced it.

But the Angel Gabriel tells Mary – and us – DO NOT BE AFRAID.

Fear is really a lack of faith in ourselves, in others or in God.  If we just had great faith, or even moderate faith, we wouldn’t fear anything.  Instead we would put our trust in God, pray for success, and proceed with the tasks which await our attention.

Think of the many times in scripture we hear Jesus scold his disciples when he says, “O you of little faith!”  Usually he is scolding his followers for excessive caution and fear.  Remember the bible story of good old St. Peter who couldn’t walk on water because of his fear?  When Jesus took him by the hand, then Peter walked with Jesus on the water because he was no longer afraid.

Aren’t we a lot like Peter?  Do we ever find ourselves failing to be good Christians because of our fears?

  • How many times have we ignored homeless persons who needed our help? We avoided eye contact, and acted as if they weren’t even there, because we were afraid.
  • Have you ever found yourself not coming to the defense of our faith, or the teachings of our Church because of fear that others might make fun of us?

Fear can cripple us and prevent us from doing what we know is right. We have all been in situations in which we have been afraid, and discovered just how powerful the chains of fear can be.

And what is the greatest fear of all?  I believe it is fear of the unknown.

  • People who fear the dark are afraid of what might be lurking there.
  • Many people fear new experiences because they don’t know what to expect.
  • Practically everyone fears death since it is a transition from life as we know it, to an eternity we’ve been told is better, but we’re just not sure.

Just consider Mary in today’s Gospel reading.The angel tells her that she is going to be the mother of God.  Can you imagine the fears and concerns that must have crossed her mind as she heard those words?

  • Why me?
  • How AND WHY is this going to happen?
  • What will my parents say?
  • What will Joseph think of me?
  • Will my reputation be ruined?

But the angel, almost reading her thoughts, assured her by saying,  “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Do you suppose that the angel was telling Mary that since she had faith in God, there was nothing to fear?  I believe that is exactly what Gabriel was saying.

And Mary’s response was a classic statement of faith when she spoke the words, and professed her acceptance of God’s will:  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”

Surely we can all take a lesson from the words that Mary spoke.  In all probability our lives won’t be changed as Mary’s was, and we won’t be called upon to participate in anything as significant as she was, but still each of us has a role to play in God’s plan.

  • Mary was chosen to carry Jesus in her womb. Can we carry his spirit in our hearts?
  • Mary nourished and supported Jesus. Can we nourish and support the Jesus in others?
  • Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Have we chosen Jesus as our brother?

As Christmas draws near, let us pray for the faith to accept our roles as Christians.  May the words the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary be our words of encouragement as well.  “DO NOT BE AFRIAD FOR YOU HAVE FOUND FAVOR WITH GOD.”

And let our response be the same as Mary’s:  “May it be done to me according to your word."