Homily for December 22, The Fourth Week of Advent
(1 Samuel 1: 24 – 28; Ps: 1 Sam 2; Luke 1: 46 – 56)
At this very moment a community, an individual is praying Mary’s Canticle. The Church, for centuries, has joyfully, gratefully taken her Magnificat to heart so that there is not a day on which it is not remembered and prayed in faith somewhere in the world.
Mary, truly the Daughter of Zion, is formed by God’s word before the Word made flesh is formed in her womb. Her canticle is a tapestry, if you will, of the Sacred Word that formed her heart. You only have to look at the footnotes in St. Luke’s account to see the sources of her prayer, what came to her mind at this moment as she “proclaims the greatness of the Lord” as she “rejoices in God” her Savior.
Let us take one verse: “He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.” Fear of the Lord appears many times in the Scriptures, especially in the Old Testament Books of Wisdom and we know that this fear is not a kind of paralysis, rather a deep, profound reverence, respect, love for God.
In our lives we know and practice this fear of the Lord – we are taught it, shown it – we genuflect, we bow, we sign ourselves with the cross – to name a few – of course, this “fear” can become mere ritual, some external piety and nothing more. This “fear of the Lord”, this reverential love, to be true, must be a grace held in the heart – a grace, a gift of the Lord Himself – an inner strength that motivates all we do.
Isaiah prophecies of Jesus: “The spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him…a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.”(11:3) And so, with our Baptism into Christ, we already possess this fear of the Lord but it must be graced by God into actuality so that it governs our lives. The planted seed waits in order to blossom.
So that we are truly, profoundly God’s people, His very own, with His mercy filling us, let us pray that this good fear, this holy gift, this delight of the Lord, be strong within us.