"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
December 18, 2011: Fourth Sunday of Advent
• 2 Samuel 7:1-16
• Psalm 89:2-5; 27, 29
• Romans 16:25-27
• Luke 1:26-38
Theme: A thousand years before Christ, the tribes of Israel struggled to settle the Promised Land. But without a king to unite and lead them, peace remained elusive. Under David’s leadership the separate tribes became a united kingdom, enabling them to achieve victory. After decades of war the Lord finally gave David rest from his enemies. It’s in this context that God established his covenant with David, which is the substance of this week’s first reading.
While David is concerned with building a proper place for the Ark of the Covenant—a visible sign of God’s presence—God is concerned with establishing David’s house forever. God’s promise of an everlasting kingdom is the backdrop for this week’s Gospel.
The second reading comes from the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans. “The mystery kept secret for long ages” includes the promise made to David, now fulfilled in Christ.
The Gospel reading this week is the Annunciation story. Luke notes the fact that Joseph was of the “house of David.” This seemingly minor detail is important. It doesn’t just indicate a genealogical connection; it shows that the promise made to David 900 years earlier was still valid.
The focus of this week’s Gospel, of course, isn’t Joseph but the Blessed Virgin Mary. Gabriel’s joyful greeting—“The Lord is with you”—is no ordinary greeting. At critical moments in salvation history, God (or an angel) addresses people with these words as he calls them to a seemingly impossible mission. These words are meant to reassure the recipient of God’s abiding presence, guidance and protection.
Key verse: “The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father … and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:33).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “From all eternity God chose for the mother of his son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee: The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life” (No. 487-488).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The ‘fiat’ of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world because it brought the Savior into the world. As the true ‘Daughter of Zion’ Mary is the image of the Church, the image of believing man who can only come to salvation and to himself through the gift of love—through grace” (“Let God’s Light Shine Forth”).
Application: Mary is the model disciple and archetype of the Church. Her dialogue with Gabriel is echoed in the liturgy when the priest addresses us with words reminiscent of the angelic greeting: “The Lord be with you!” Contained in these simple words is a divine calling, which is heard at crucial moments in the Mass: as we prepare to worship; as we prepare to hear Christ’s words in the Gospel; as we prepare to offer ourselves with Christ to the Father in the eucharistic sacrifice; as we prepare to receive the body and blood of our Lord in holy Communion, and as we prepare to offer ourselves to the world at the dismissal..
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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