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Bishop's Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 20, 2020

[St. Michael the Archangel Church, Kailua-Kona]

One thousand years!  Ten centuries!  That is the amount of time that elapsed between the scene described in our first reading from the second book of Samuel and the scene described in our Gospel from St. Luke.  Most of us can hardly remember what we had for dinner last night, but somehow God expected his people to remember the promise he had made to David so many eons before.  And God wants us to remember all he has done for us, no matter how far it may seem from promise to fulfillment.

King David, who was by no means sinless, still loved the Lord so much that he wanted to build a magnificent temple where God could be worshipped and adored by all the people and become the center of the entire kingdom of Israel and of the world.  God was willing to wait until the time of David’s son, King Solomon, for the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem, but God surprised David for his love and fidelity by promising that God would build a house for him; not a house of timber or stone, but a dynasty by which David’s descendant would sit upon his royal throne forever.  Century after century passed, and while there were kings who succeeded David, ultimately the kingdom was destroyed when kings and people were unfaithful to God and were conquered by the Babylonians.  Who could even remember a promise made but obviously unfulfilled?  But ten centuries later, a maiden named Mary, who by God’s favor was full of grace, remembered the promise.  She was so immersed in the living Word of God that her heart was attuned to hear the voice of the Angel Gabriel.  He announced to her that now was the time for God to fulfill this centuries-old promise, and that the Word of God would immerse himself in her and take flesh in her holy womb.  One could understand her fear, even terror, that she, such a little one, should be chosen to be the mother of the King, the son of David, who would rule forever.  And if that was a shock to her, imagine the shock she felt when she was told that the father of this child would not be her beloved Joseph or any other man, but God himself!  She could not have fully understood all of this, but she accepted God’s will for her, and the Word became flesh in her virginal womb.

God makes many promises to us.  He promises health to the sick, yet we see so much sickness among us, not only in this pandemic, but in so many other diseases and maladies.  He promises that we will all be one, yet we experience so many serious divisions within our own families, in our country, and in our Church.  He promises justice for all, yet we see so many people losing their livelihoods and more and more people living on the streets.  He promises eternal life, yet we see death all around us in abortion, suicides, wars and disasters.  It would be very easy for us to lose hope, to be cynical about these promises, and to give up on God, as many have in our society.  Since God does not fulfill his promises at the snap of our fingers, we can easily forget the promises themselves.

Yet, just as God selected David to play a part in his plan of love and redemption, and just as he chose Mary to play a lead in his living drama of salvation, so he has chosen all of us, to be disciples of Jesus, his own Son, the descendant of David, and the Son of the virgin Mary.  We may be discouraged that we have not yet been able, as disciples of Jesus, to change the world so that Jesus can be the living Temple, the center of every life, every culture, and every nation.  But God reminds us today to be patient and to be faithful.  His purpose and his promises are not always fulfilled immediately, and we may not even see their fulfillment.  Just as David never saw the magnificent Temple that he dreamed of, he still gathered materials of the finest quality so that his son could build it.  So we are reminded that we are not necessarily called to be great, but simply to be faithful in building the Kingdom of God, where Jesus reigns forever.  When we come to Mass to be filled with the Word we hear and the Word we eat, we do something extremely important:  we remember, in this memorial sacrifice, that God is true to his promises.  In a world that forgets this central truth and therefore becomes discouraged and cynical about God and his promises, we must keep the fire of hope burning.  We do this by our acts of kindness to one another, by resisting the temptation to demonize others who disagree with us, by caring for the sick in our prayers and in our ministrations to them, by feeding the hungry and working for justice for all people.  It can be frustrating, and we may feel we are simply voices crying in the wilderness with no one listening.  But this is how God’s kingdom is built, one mustard seed at a time, one lost sheep sought out, one simple step each day, one seemingly ineffective prayer after another, one sacrifice for others united to the great sacrifice of the cross.

It may take years or even centuries, but every time we worship God with our voices and our actions, God’s power is accomplishing what we cannot accomplish on our own, because for God nothing is impossible.  It is our duty and our salvation to glorify God by remembering his promises, even when others have forgotten them; by offering ourselves as Mary did as servants of the Lord; and by sharing the joy of KNOWING that in God’s own time, his kingdom of justice, love and peace will no longer be a dream or a promise, but a reality filled with love beyond all telling.