Wednesday, December 17, 2014

He Receives the People

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

“The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, while tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people’s homage.”  Genesis 49:10

Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.  Matthew 1:15B-16

Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem.  (Receive, Lord, all my liberty.)

The Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley (an Irish nun who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831) is credited with a 'suscipe' prayer in the tradition of the Mass and the Ignatian Exercises. This prayer, also known as the Act of Resignation, is one of many that she wrote but is considered to be her best known prayer.

My God, I am yours for time and eternity. Teach me to cast myself entirely into the arms of your loving Providence with a lively, unlimited confidence in your compassionate, tender pity. Grant, O most merciful Redeemer, that whatever you ordain or permit may be acceptable to me. Take from my heart all painful anxiety; let nothing sadden me but sin, nothing delight me but the hope of coming to the possession of You my God and my all, in your everlasting kingdom. Amen.

Today, our Advent preparations take on a new dimension.  The Gospel readings pivot to begin telling the direct Christmas narrative.  Over the past two and a half weeks, we have been reviewing a variety of lessons in preparation of our minds and hearts.  Now, the story begins to directly address the birth of Christ and the events immediately preceding it.

Over the past few days, the readings have shown us how the spirit of God washed over Isaiah and the spirit of Baptism washed over Jesus (in the Gospel Sunday).  Monday we heard its effects on the false prophet Balaam in his visions.  Although Balaam was not a great prophet in the line of Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel, he was able to overcome his shortcomings when the spirit of God upon him to enable Balaam delivered God’s vision to the people.  The words of Balaam’s vision shall become our own as the vision soon passes into actual seeing at the foot of the manager.

I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.  Number 24:17AB

This is a vision to which Balaam and we must be true.  Balaam could not sell out – he refuses to let even all the gold and silver of his adversary make him stray from the command of the Lord.  “‘Even if Balak gave me his house full of silver and gold, I could not of my own accord do anything, good or evil, contrary to the command of the LORD’? Whatever the LORD says I must say.” (Do you hear echoing down the millennia the call to remember the “reason” for the “season?”)  Rather than hearing from the Great or Minor Prophets, we get ready for the rising action of the Nativity story.

The rejection of the temptation of worldly goods and power that we heard throughout “early” Advent is gone (for now).  No longer will Jesus be trying to turn the tables on the Pharisees as they try to trick him.  Now, God will turn the tables on all of humanity as He gets ready to walk among us first as a baby in the line of David, the son of Abraham.  We hear echoes again of the genealogy of Jesus.  For the remaining days of Advent, we will not hear about episodes from the adult life of Jesus but the build-up to the denouement – the actual birth of a baby to Mary, the descendant-daughter of Ruth (the only other woman mentioned by Matthew in this family tree.

Are we prepared to give up our pursuit of riches, power and knowledge and turn over our lives to the Lord as Mary turned over her life to the Lord and as He turned over His life for us?  

While we won’t remember our own birth, reflect on the vision of children, grandchildren, or others who have come into your life and changed things.  While we have a set of relatives in our time, many people had a hand in the gene pool that sprouted each one of us.  Think back upon those known and unknown members of your family trees whom you never met. 

All of us – known and distant – are touched by this act of love when our Lord came down as a baby and entered the world the same way we did, and our great-great-grandparents and our children’s children’s children will.

Are we prepared to give up our pursuit of riches, power and knowledge and turn over our lives to the Lord as Mary turned over her life to the Lord and as He turned over His life for us?   

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