Homily for Fourth Sunday Advent, Year C, 2021
We’ve reached the final Sunday in Advent. Only a few sleeps to go. School has finished. We have our parish reconciliation night Tuesday. Today we can donate to St Vincent de Paul to help others less fortunate. We’ve bought most of our presents. The preparation looks like it is almost done. Have we forgotten anything? What more could there be to do?
What more could there be to do? This question sums up so much of modern life. It contains both promise and anxiety. We are not satisfied, so doesn’t that mean there must be more to do? One of my favourite singers once said that his vision of modern life is sitting in the back of a taxi worrying that he should be somewhere else.
And all the advertisements this time of year seem to add more and more to what is necessary. People promising to help us cook stuff that we have never eaten before. Shops giving us discounts on things we never knew were needed.
So, do we need more? And if we do need more, what more do we need? What’s on our Christmas wish-list? One of the best I have heard was a few years ago from a very young relative. All she wanted was: a dog and the power to fly.
Isn’t that a great wish-list? I mean, if I’m going to ask for something, why not the power to fly? If I want more, shouldn’t I really go all out? In fact, are the constant reminders that we need more actually hiding this truth from us? Are the little mores pushing the big ones into the background? Is social consumption masking a deep hunger? Is consumerism in fact a cry for real food? Especially this year when our hunger was obviously for something else.
Our readings today pick up on this. They ask us to think again about what we really want. They ask us to focus once more on the real desires in our hearts. The ones that we cannot live without.
And our deepest desires reveal the reason for our anxiety. We want love; and love needs another person. We want more; but there is not more to do. And so our deepest desires are out of our control. This can be terrifying, unless we have faith.
We see this reality, the need for love, most of all in the person of Mary. For her, though, this need for more is a promise rather than an anxiety. She has faith. We hear that she is the one who is most blessed because she believed the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.
So, what is the promise that was made to her? The promise that was made to her is her whole life.
We hear in our second reading that God does not want the old sacrifices and oblations. God doesn’t want the laundry list of presents, unless they contain, unless they reveal, what God really wants. God just wants us. God wants us simply to give ourselves. Why does God want this? Because that is what we are made for. That is how we become happy. God wants to share the divine life.
Our whole vocation is to give ourselves. Our whole lives point to this truth. We are created for communion. Our physiology attests to this. Our language assumes this. Our hearts cry out for this. All these parts of our lives testify to the fact that we are made for communion. But they cry out for the one who alone can answer this deep cry in all its aspects. The one who can embrace all of us. The one who is communion: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In Mary, we hear this cry at its purest, a cry attested to in the preface today. Throughout the Scriptures, we see God forming a people for himself. In Mary, God’s work reaches completion. God finally finds someone who cries out so purely, whose desire and need for God is so all encompassing, that she surrenders herself completely to God’s will. She understands the truth of her life, the truth of the promise and the promise of the truth. And in handing herself completely to God, she allows God to become human.
This is the more that we want. True life and true love. And Mary shows us what it looks like. She hands herself over completely to God. And then when she hears of Elizabeth’s good news, she forgets herself and hands herself over completely for Elizabeth. Love of God and love of neighbour. In trusting that God loves her, she is free to love others. She is transparent for grace.
So today, let us ask for Mary’s help. May she who is full of grace, she who knows so perfectly that the Lord is with her, may she pray that we too will trust the Lord with our hearts. That we will not be distracted from our deepest desires. May we too with her be called blessed for believing the promise made to us by the Lord will be fulfilled.
So, in this Mass, let us offer up our hunger, full of faith that we will receive in return the true food of communion: Jesus Christ.