Sunday, December 20, 2009

"O Key of David" - Fourth Sunday of Advent - Avoiding a Winter Storm


If one were to imagine Luke as a preacher of the gospel about Jesus and ask about his favourite motifs, the heralding of good news to the poor and outcast would rank high on the list. So also would the themes of the universality of God's saving purpose, the blessings of poverty and the dangers of wealth.

Prominent, too, in Luke's depiction of the way things are for Christ Jesus and His followers, are the role of the Holy Spirit in both the life of the Teacher and His disciples.

Prayer and praise of God are frequently on His lips and on theirs, as are the joy and praise which dwelling in God's presence brings.

Luke was deeply aware of the role and significance for the early Christian community of the twelve apostles to whom Jesus entrusted governance of the faith community He established. But the evangelist was equally conscious of the key role played by women in receiving, supporting and furthering God's saving plan during Jesus' public ministry and in the first years of the fledgling Church.

Only Luke tells us that, as Jesus went through the Galilean cities and villages proclaiming and bringing Good News of the Kingdom of God, the Twelve were with Him accompanied by some women--Mary Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna--and many others, who provided for them out of their resources (8:1-3).

As the preceding account of Jesus' meeting with a sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee illustrates (7:36-50), discipleship arose out of encounters with Jesus that touched women at the core of their being.

Further, Luke alone informed his readers of Jesus' meeting with Martha and Mary in their home (10:38-42), told of His cure of a woman bent over double for 18 years (13:10-17) and noted that Jesus narrated a parable of a persistent widow, who demanded and got justice from an unwilling judge as an illustration of the need to pray always and not to lose heart (18:1-8).

That women model a disciple's receptivity to the gospel message is powerfully displayed in the account Luke gave of Jesus' conception, birth and infancy. Unlike Zechariah's doubting question to the angel Gabriel on learning his wife would conceive (1:18), Mary's question at the annunciation contained no connotation of unbelief (1:34).

Gabriel explained that her conception of Jesus would take place by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit so that her child would truly be called Son of God (1:35). Mary's reply manifests the classic expression of trust in all God might ask of a creature, Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word (1:38).

Today's gospel depicts the joyful mystery known as "the Visitation". Elizabeth and Mary's meeting anticipated the future encounters between their sons, John the Baptist and Jesus. While yet in the womb of his mother, the Baptizer leapt for joy at the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary.

Elizabeth, we are told, was filled with the Holy Spirit the first of many such fillings Luke recorded (1:67; 2:25; Acts 2:4; 4:8; 13:9). Generally in Luke-Acts, before a person opens his or her mouth to sing God's praise or proclaim the gospel, he or she is filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth's loud cry (Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.... Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord) is the cry of the Spirit in song. Elizabeth's knowledge of Mary's pregnancy can only be understood as having been given her by the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth went on to declare that, in addition to the blessing of a child given her by the Lord, a further blessing was hers in that the mother of my Lord comes to me. Elizabeth then explained the meaning of her child's leaping in her womb. It was a sign of the joy which the arrival of the Lord Jesus offers (the child in my womb leaped for joy).

Whenever the Lord enters into people's lives, the joy of friendship with God overflows into prayer and praise. Inspired by the Spirit, Mary testified to this, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.


O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

"O KEY of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death."


The last day in New York included a visit to the Metropolitan Museum in the morning.

The Metropolitan Museum, NYC

Then, in the afternoon, I was given a guided tour of the renovated St. Ignatius Loyola Church by the pastor, Fr. George Witt, S.J.

St. Ignatius Church, NYC

And in the evening I travelled to the Metropolitan Opera to take in Richard Strauss’ Elektra, a harrowing tale of vindication, love and death. Very moving:

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, NYC

On my return from the Met, on foot to see and delight in all the night-time Christmas decorations, I took note of anxious tone of the weather forecasts about the snow storms affecting the Eastern seaboard (President Obama left Copenhagen in a hurry to beat the storm).

So, I quickly decided to cancel my flight (which on Air Canada’s website seemed iffy) in favour of Amtrak’s slow-moving [11 hours] Adirondack train from NYC’s Pennsylvania Station to Montreal’s Central Station. It seemed wise in light of the subsequent cancellation of Canadian flights to and from LaGuardia Airport.

Besides, I did not want to miss out on Mass this morning at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre on Innes Road and I really did feel it would be important to be home as host for this afternoon’s Open House.

On the train, my seatmate was Andre Bernard a young man from Marseilles studying to be a minister in a Mt. Zion Interdenominational School for Ministry in Grantville, PA, on his way to Longueueil, QC to visit family for Christmas.

We had a wonderful and at times deeply spiritual conversation that made the trip a most pleasant one. Even when one sees the Christian Church differently, one can admire the news of a personal conversion and a vocation to spread God’s word and life to others.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like Bernard could be Jesuit material.