4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B ON DECEMBER 20, 2020 (R. 1: 2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8b-12; 14a, 16; Psalm 89: 2- 3, 4- 5, 27, 29; R. 2: Romans 16: 25- 27; Gospel: Luke 1: 26- 38)

FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO

THE LORD IS WITH YOU!

In this season, many are taking days off from work for vacation, but there are some who can’t afford to go on vacation now. For example, priests, many health care workers, those in the military etc. Someone else who cannot think of a vacation in this season is Angel Gabriel. He has no fear of job security as there are a lot of messages to deliver in this season. He has been very busy, flying from one point to another. You remember how it all started, he was with Zechariah to tell him that not minding his age along with that of his wife; they were going to have a son (John the Baptist). From there, he got his GPS and his next destination became the home where Mary was. From there, there was the need to fly to Joseph to do what seemed like “damage control.” At Joseph’s home, he had to say something like, “Big Joe, I know you are upset that Mary is pregnant, but it is not what you think, I can explain…”

Then came the birth of Jesus! The angel had to fly to the shepherds who were watching their flock by night to break the news. Some commentators suggest that the shepherds were Levitical shepherds who were shepherding the sheep meant for temple sacrifices. So to the shepherds he must have said, “Come and see, the Good Shepherd has been born, come and adore him,” and to the sheep, he must have said, “Oh ye Sheep, I bring you good tidings, you are no longer to be sacrificed in the Temple because the Lamb of God who will be sacrificed for the sins of the world has been born.” The same angel will fly to Joseph and ask him to escape to Egypt with Jesus because Herod wants to kill the infant Jesus. From there, the angel will go to the magi and discourage them from going back to Herod. After the death of Herod, the angel will fly to Egypt to inform Joseph that it was safe to return home. So much work for one angel!

In the Gospel passage, the angel Gabriel who was sent by God to Mary came to her and said, “Hail, full of the grace, the Lord is with you.” This salutation can be divided into three parts, namely Hail/ full of grace/ the Lord is with you. The third part of the salutation, “the Lord is with you” is the key to understanding how what came to be came about. The lowly Virgin only became so exulted to be the Mother of God because the Lord is with her. For us too, the key to our success in all we do is the presence of the Lord in all we do. That is what we celebrate at Christmas, the best gift of God ever, Emmanuel (God with us). Like I do say, there can be no better name to give your child than the name Emmanuel (thanks, Mom and Dad), for when God is with us, all other things will fall in place.

When David was about to go fight the warrior Goliath. King Saul was afraid for him, but when he saw that the little David meant business, he said to him, “Go, and the Lord be with you” (1 Samuel 17: 37). Many scripture scholars trace the victory of David to the words of King Saul when he said, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” When the King spoke, he did that based on the power given to him by God through the people and so there was power in his words. He spoke the same words that the angel Gabriel will say to Mary, “The Lord is with you.”

When we gather at each Mass as Catholics, we are privileged to be greeted in the same words not just by a king, but by one who has been anointed by God through his Church to be King, Priest and Prophet. The priest uses the formula of the angelic salutation or something similar about five times during one Mass. (1) At the beginning of the Mass, he says “The Lord be with you” or “The grace of our Lord…be with you.” (2) Before reading the Gospel, he greets us, “The Lord be with you”. (3) Before the preface at the second half of the Mass, he greets us, “The Lord be with you”. (4) While preparing us to share the kiss of peace, he says to us, “The peace of the Lord be with you”. (5) And before the final blessing, he says, “The Lord be with you.”

The angel said those words to Mary only once, and she gave birth to Jesus Christ. King Saul said those words to David and he defeated Goliath. Now, as Catholics, we receive those words from the priest, who is another Christ, five times at every Mass. I sometimes share with my Catholic friends that if a priest is angry with you, the best place to get him is at a Mass he is presiding. He has no option but to wish you well. The priest cannot come to Mass and say, “The Lord be with you, except that man/lady that got me angry yesterday.” God himself assures us of the power of his presence in Isaiah 41: 10, “So do not fear for I am with you.” My dearly beloved in Christ, you have the privilege of receiving the same empowerment at least five times at every Mass. And so, as you step out of Mass today, go confidently and conquer the world because, the Lord is with you. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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