Monday December 24, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Advent
Reading (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a-16) Gospel (St. Luke 1:67-79)
In the first reading from the Second Book of Samuel today, we hear that very famous promise of God to David: that God will build David a house and one of his sons shall reign upon his throne forever. That, of course, is what we see fulfilled in Jesus in the fact that it is not by succession that the throne of David is always filled, but in this one Son. But beyond that, in this particular passage, we hear the other promises of God. It is not merely a promise to David, but it is a promise to the entire people of Israel. The Lord says to the people: "I will fix a place for my people Israel. I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies." That is the promise that is made to the people.
For each one of us, as members of the new Israel, we recognize that these promises also are fulfilled for us. Just as the part that immediately follows that about one of his sons reigning upon the throne of David is fulfilled in Christ, so too is the first part of that prophecy for all of us – that God has fixed a place for each one of us, that He has indeed given us rest from all of our enemies. That does not mean that there are not people who dislike us and perhaps even hate us because there certainly are. We can look throughout the world and see how many Catholics are being persecuted terribly for the Faith. Yet, at the same time, if they are fixed on Christ they are at peace because they know fully well that as long as they are living their faith they have the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. And even if the Blessed Sacrament is removed, they still have the faith within their hearts. God dwells within them when they are in the state of grace. And if they should give up their life for Christ then they have a direct, straight line to Heaven – no Purgatory for those who are martyred. In Christ, enemies have no power over us. In fact, what they do is bring us closer to the Lord; they unite us more perfectly to Him. So those whom we consider our enemies we actually recognize to be our friends in the spiritual life because they are the ones who fulfill what Christ has promised to us. They help us to recognize what is really important and what is not: that all the things of this world can go to the wayside, but what is really important is Christ.
Then, when we look at the Gospel reading today, we hear this beautiful song that Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, sings: the song that the Church puts upon our lips every single morning. As we pray Morning Prayer, this canticle is recited every single day. And so we hear the fact that God Himself is going to visit His people. And from his own father’s mouth, we hear that John the Baptist, his son, is going to be the prophet of the Most High and he is going to go before the Lord to prepare His way, to make the straight paths. Again, we see how God has set up everything.
Those paths need to be made straight now within each one of us because, indeed, tomorrow we will celebrate the visitation of God to His people. But for us, it is a visitation that He makes every day, and He remains continually with us. As incredible and glorious as the Feast of Christmas is - that God would become incarnate for us and He would take on our flesh and come into this world as one of us so that He would be able to save us from our sins - this is the mystery that we celebrate, in essence, every single day. He remains with us always.
Indeed, as Zechariah would say, all of this is the work of the kindness of our God. He, the Dayspring, shall visit us in His mercy to shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace. We hear Saint Zechariah talking about his son and specifically telling us what John the Baptist is going to do. But then he speaks to us and he tells us what God is going to do for His people. This is all the work of God, and it is specifically to guide our feet into the way of peace. The Lord is our peace. With Him, as we have already seen, we are freed from our enemies on every side. We have peace completely when we are united with Christ. And so, we see all of these things fulfilled perfectly in Our Lord.
As we prepare now to celebrate this great Feast of Christmas and the glorious mystery of the Incarnation and the Birth of Christ, we look into our own hearts and we ask ourselves: "Am I focused on Christ? Is my whole life revolving around this mystery of God made man? Do I find peace because I am with the Lord? Am I living the mystery that I will celebrate tomorrow?" That is the way we need to prepare within our hearts: to open our hearts to receive Him, to make sure that the way is prepared within each one of us: that we have heard the call of John the Baptist, that we have repented, and that we have made a straight way for the Lord so that the Dayspring from on high in His mercy will come to visit each one of us and to guide our feet – indeed, to guide our lives and our hearts - into the way of peace.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.