Thoughts and meditation on the Readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (Year C)1
“You, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
the least of the clans of Judah,
our of you will be born for me
the one who is to rule over Israel;
his origin goes back to the distant past,
to the days of old…
…He himself will be peace.”
At this time each year, our thoughts are turned to that small city in the Holy Land, Bethlehem, the city of David, to where the Holy Family found itself heading for the census that was to be taken of ‘the whole world‘.
Each year, now as in the days of old, many people find themselves heading to Bethlehem. Today there are many obstacles in the way, but it is the place where first Our Blessed Lord laid his head to sleep. As we will hear at Midnight Mass the angels give glory to God at His birth, and ask for His peace to men.
Peace is at the heart of the Christian message. In the midst of a busy world do we often find reminders of that Peace? As we rush about finding the last gift, making sure we have them wrapped, ensuring we enough food for the holidays, do we take time and remember this is all about Peace coming to the world? If we do not, then we are missing the point.
We must remember about Peace. Last week in the United States of America the peace of an elementary school was shattered, this week the peace of a church where preparations for a children’s Christmas party were being made was shattered, and all over the world similar stories have occurred in recent days. We need find new ways of sharing the Peace of Christ with everyone around us.
Across Europe and the USA, there have been messengers of peace working hard this December to spread the light of Peace across their countries. Where has this light of Peace come? Well, we’re turning back again to Bethlehem. For in Bethlehem, in the grotto where first our Lord laid his head, there is a flame—an eternal flame—burning for peace. And every year, someone from Austria makes the trip to Bethlehem to bring out the flame and take it to Vienna from where messengers of peace from Scouting and Guiding take it home to their own country and share it across the continent.
We find many messengers of peace throughout Scripture, we have heard of them throughout Advent: St John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness and today jumping for joy in his mother’s womb; the angel Gabriel, telling Our Lady of the Incarnation, and telling Zechariah about the birth of St John the Baptist.
Might we become messengers of Christ’s Peace in our city? We may live in a small village, a large town, or in the midst of a sprawling metropolis. But we are all called to the same task. We, as Catholics, must show our Faith to the world. It is not to be left to the priests, or the religious. No, it is up to all. Pope Benedict XⅥ, the Bishop of Rome, said to his Diocese in May 2009, that
In past centuries, thanks to the generous witness of all the baptized who spent their life educating the new generations in the faith, healing the sick and going to the aid of the poor, the Christian community proclaimed the Gospel to the inhabitants of Rome.3
His Holiness was speaking of Rome, but it can be applied to wherever we are. We are all called to be messengers of Peace, for Our Blessed Lord is the Prince of Peace. As we prepare in the final days of Advent, through the hustle and bustle of the secular world around us, for the great Feast on Tuesday, I urge us all to take the time to seek peace. Peace in our churches, peace in our homes, and to take His Peace to all that we meet in all that we do, say, and think at this time.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
1. Readings: Micah 5.1–4; Hebrews 10.5–10; Luke 1.39–45
2. ORF-Friedenslicht in Bethlehem entzündet <http://ooe.orf.at/studio/stories/2560569/>
3. Address of His Holiness Benedict XⅥ, Basilica of St John Lateran, Tuesday 26 May 2009.