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Advent: December 24th

Fourth Sunday of Advent; Christmas Eve

MASS READINGS

December 24, 2017 (Readings on USCCB website)

COLLECT PRAYER

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Old Calendar: Fourth Sunday of Advent

"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

This year Advent is very short, Sunday being the only day in the fourth week. In the General Roman Calendar, today is the last day of Advent, Christmas Eve, and also (beginning with the vigil Mass) is the first day of Christmas time. The liturgical texts express wholehearted confidence in the imminent coming of the Redeemer. There is much joyous expectation. Most families have their own observances, customs that should be preserved from generation to generation. Today is the last day of our Christmas Novena.

Click here for commentary on the readings in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.


Sunday Readings
The first reading is taken from Isaiah 7:10-14. The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel’ (Is 7:14). This well-known affirmation by the prophet Isaiah announces the coming of the Messiah into human history. It already gives us a taste of the proximity of that marvelous, stupendous day which will be the ‘dies natalis’ of Jesus. It was foretold by the prophets and proclaimed throughout the whole of Sacred Scriptures that He would be the One who would fulfil and bring them to completion. Our God will be incarnated and born due to the generous willingness of the ‘Virgin’ who, from the very beginning of time, was chosen to be the Mother of the Savior.

The second reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 1:1-7. St. Paul opens his letter to the Jewish and Gentile converts of Rome, the first generation of Christians in the captial city of the empire, by stating that he is an Apostle chosen by Christ to spread the good news of the Incarnation. He calls this news the Gospel of God," for it is an account of that almost incredible act of God's love for us. God sent his divine Son, as man among us in this work, in order that we might be with the three divine Persons for all eternity in the next world.

The Gospel is from Matthew 1:18-24. "How unsearchable are the judgements of God and how inscrutable his ways!" as St. Paul says to the Romans (11 :33). If God had preserved the kingdom of Judah (which he could so easily have done), and if the Messiah, the son of David, were to be born in the royal palace in Jerusalem, it would be natural and we would almost say, more fitting the dignity of the Messiah. Instead, God allowed the kingly line, and the throne of Judah, to disappear, and he chose a humble carpenter of Nazareth, a true descendant of David but a lowly one, to be the foster-father of his divine Son, when he took human nature and came on earth to "dwell among us." But God's ways are not our ways. It is not by their social standing, nor by their bank-accounts, that God values men. Virtue is the scale he uses when weighing men. In God's eyes, no king sat on the throne of Judah, not even David himself, who was more acceptable to God as foster-father for his Son, than the carpenter of Nazareth.

This is the last Sunday of our preparation for Christmas, the anniversary of Christ's birth. Like Joseph, we can all feel unworthy of the honor of welcoming him into our hearts and our homes. We are indeed unworthy, not because we have little of this world's goods, but because we have so little humility, so little charity, so little faith and trust in God's goodness. Let us try to imitate Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kindly, and the greatest-ever believers in God's goodness and mercy. We can never hope to equal them, but we can follow them humbly, from afar.

The feast of Christmas should draw the hearts of every child of God towards the furnace of divine love. In the manger, the infinite love of God for us miserable sinners is dramatically and forcefully portrayed before our eyes. In that helpless Baby, represented by a statue, we know that the person, and the power, of the omnipotent Creator and sustainer of the universe lie hidden "He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" for us. He became a creature, like ourselves, so that he would make us sharers in his divine nature. He came on earth to bring us to heaven. He hid his divine nature so that he could cover us with it.

"Unsearchable indeed are the judgements of God, and inscrutable his ways." But though we are unworthy of his infinite love, it nevertheless stands out as clear as the noonday sun in the Incarnation. We realize that we can never make ourselves worthy of this infinite love, but let us imitate Joseph and accept the honor which God is giving us, as we trust that he will continue to make us daily less unworthy.

Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.

Today is Day Nine of the Christmas Novena.


Commentary for the Readings in the Extraordinary Form:
Fourth Sunday of Advent

"John, the son of Zachary," to a world now awaiting its God, pleads for our final pre-Christmas "make ready." "Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight His paths" (Gospel).

Heroically, in the desert, he warns against the softness of life in the city, pictured in the background. Alive to the danger of a "soft garments" life, he is seen in a rough "garment of camel hair," carrying a baptismal shell, "preaching a baptism of repentance."

Excerpted from My Sunday Missal, Confraternity of the Precious Blood