Reflection: The obedience of faith

In this last part week of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded that God’s time is different from ours and that God’s thoughts are bigger than our imagination.

In the first reading, David wishes to formalize worship, to build a place of encounter with God. God replies that it is not a house, but a kingdom, a people united, that will show forth God’s glory. Yes, Solomon will build a temple — but it is one that is destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed. What God was really building up in this people was a way to dwell among them, to bring them into what Jesus would describe as the kingdom of God.

The closing words of Paul’s letter to the Romans explain that the mystery of Christ has been revealed to bring the entire world to the obedience of faith. Obedience is a word for listening — so carefully, so attentively, so openly — that the listeners are prepared to be changed by what they hear. Getting people to listen is ultimately the only way to bring about change. Paul believed that the mystery of Christ was so exciting and life-giving that it would bring people to obedience — if only they would listen to it with their heart.

Only God would dream up a plan to save the world by starting with young Mary of Nazareth. Only God would keep turning to us, hoping for obedience.

The angel said to Mary, “The Lord is with you.” The angel also said, “Do not be afraid.” The message that God is with us can be very troubling. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to God’s presence, everything can change and that’s not always comforting.

The message we are invited to ponder today during these few final few days of Advent is that the Creator of the universe wants to be with us. When we are invited to ponder all that could be, the angel reminds us “nothing will be impossible for God.” The mystery of Christmas that we celebrate with lights and crèche scenes, gifts and shared food, is not just a historical commemoration. Luke wants us to listen for Gabriel’s wings approaching our town. The angels will tell us, “Do not be afraid.” Heaven is hoping we will respond with the obedience of faith.

First Reading

(2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16)

When King David was settled in his palace,
and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,
he said to Nathan the prophet,
“Here I am living in a house of cedar,
while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
Nathan answered the king,
“Go, do whatever you have in mind,
for the LORD is with you.”
But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?’“

“‘It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock 
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.’”

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 89: 2-3, 4-5, 27, 29)

Second Reading

(Romans 16: 25-27)

Brothers and sisters:
To him who can strengthen you,
according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested through the prophetic writings and,
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ
be glory forever and ever. Amen.


(Luke 1: 26-28)

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.