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No or Yes

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent (C)

No or Yes

Did you ever meet someone to whom no one could say “No.” King David was that kind of person. If we read the history of King David, we will find that he was an exceptionally brilliant, determined and charming individual. He never failed. As a mere youth, he took on Goliath. As a commander of an army, he outwitted the Philistines and won the loyalty of the northern Israelites who were famous for rejecting the leadership of anyone from the southern tribe of Judah. He mustered exceptional loyalty from his soldiers and conquered a city like Jerusalem, considered impregnable for the two hundred years since the first conquest of Joshua. Even in love, David overcame impossible odds to win Michal, Saul’s daughter, as his wife. He seduced Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. When he ordered his general to put Uriah at the front of the offensive against the enemy, the general acquiesced even though he probably understood that he would lose an able soldier. King David always seems to get his way.

When he told Nathan that he wanted to build a Temple for God in Jerusalem, like everyone else, Nathan said: “Do whatever you have in mind.” Yet on the very next day, Nathan had to bring God’s answer to his request. “No, you shall not do this. I will build you a house.” I imagine it came as quite a shock to David after a life time of “yeses.” However, God declared that he had lived in a tent ever since he had brought Israel out of Egypt. This was the common dwelling of the nomadic people of that time. God understood that to live among the people meant to live in a tent. Temples would come later. God promised David that his dynasty would last forever, a promise that was fulfilled through the Virgin Mary whom we meet in today’s Gospel.

There is something humorous, if not also very insightful, in the observation about the often-used command in Scripture “Do not be afraid” that we hear in the Gospel today. To be honest, any time we hear “fear not,” or “do not be afraid,” something really scary and frightening is about to happen. In other words, the words “fear not” ought to strike fear into our hearts, because we are about to be asked to do something far outside of our comfort zone: to trust, to have faith, to grow, to love, to follow where the Lord is leading us. Mary is able to have faith, to grow, to love and to follow the Lord.

There is something amusing but insightful in this, because there is also some truth to it. How many of us have heard people say, “don’t be mad, but . . .” or again, “don’t worry, but . . .” Then they tell us something that makes us mad or makes us worry.

However, in the end we also know that all will be well. How do we know this? Because of WHY we are told not to be afraid. “Do not fear, I am with you”; “be strong, do not fear! He comes to save you”; “take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” From the beginning of human time, God has promised us he will not forsake us, or leave us alone. He made that promise to King David, and mow Mary hears these very words: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Mary, perfected in grace, had been chosen by God for something we would all agree sounds frightening; but in her knowledge of God’s favor upon her, which is just another way of saying God would always be with her, she steps boldly and fully into the unknown. She has been told that the power of the Most High will overshadow her and that she will not be alone. She will have the help and grace of God, for whom nothing is impossible.

So her “fiat” makes perfect sense. How could she not say “yes,” when her faith and trust in a God who had nurtured his covenant and fulfilled his every promise was affirmed by his envelopment of her in his love and protection? How could we not say yes when the same God who found favor with Mary, finds favor with us and never forsakes us? He can strengthen us, Paul writes to the Romans. Where we cannot, God can. We do nothing alone and all things through the grace of God.

David and Mary found favor with God. They accomplished great things even though they were confronted with some frightening ideas. Truly, God lives among us.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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