Summary: Let's us witness to a fundamental truth: that in the Incarnation, God truly came to be with us forever.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent 2011

“Not From a Distance”

The Spirit of the Liturgy

About a quarter of a century ago a song that made it to number 2 on the Billboard chart taught us that “God is watching us–from a distance.” The idea was, I suppose, not much different from that expressed in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”–you’d better watch out what you do, because if you are bad, Santa will put a switch in your stocking, or God will knock your block off. Almost thirty years ago, listeners were thrown into depression hearing Kansas singing “all we are is dust in the wind.” But only a fool would listen to pop songs for an understanding of fundamental truths about human life and the divine intentions for man.

For such an understanding, the Church has proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and celebrated Christ, the Word of God made flesh, for two thousand years. What is that message today, that divine Word of encouragement? “The Lord is with you.” To David the king–no, you will not build me a house, I will build you a house, a dynasty that will last forever. To Mary, espoused to Joseph of David’s house: “The Lord is with you. Your son Jesus will be called Son of the Most High God, and he will inherit the throne of the house of David.”

God does not look on us from a distance. Just the opposite. He is with us. We may think–we may even be certain–that we are nothings and nobodies. We may believe that we are dust in the wind, that after our death and a few tears from relatives, we will be forgotten forever. But that’s the devil’s lie. The Lord is with you. The Lord–in the Holy Father’s words–abbreviated himself, made himself tiny enough to fit into the Virgin Mary’s womb. Why? St. John tells us in that famous Gospel verse from chapter 3: God so loved the world–loved humans–that he gave us His only-begotten Son, that all who believe in Him may have eternal life. We are somethings and somebodies because the Creator of the Universe loves us, and proved it by becoming a nothing and a nobody for our sake. That nothing–that son of a nobody carpenter from a nothing village in a third-rate Roman province–suffered and died and rose again, proving the incredible love of the Father for sinful humanity. That same Jesus Christ is able to strengthen us who are so weak, and bring about in us what St. Paul calls the obedience of faith.

Scripture records dozens of times in the Old Testament the words of God or of an angel declaring “the Lord is with you,” or God himself saying through a prophet “I am with you.” God declared that to Isaac at the shrine of Beer-sheba. God confirmed it at Bethel, telling Jacob, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.” When the people of Israel, having spurned the land of promise, changed their mind and tried to seize that land by force, Moses told them “the Lord is not with you.” They did not listen to him and were brutally defeated in battle.

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