Incarnation means that the Divine is inevitably and always within everything in the world and the whole world within God. While the man Jesus offered us a radical example of how to live a “God with us” life, we too are energized by that same Spirit incarnate in us.
– Val Webb “Searching for a Theology of Beauty for the 21st Century”
The readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Luke 1:26-38) cycle B can be found here.
In order to put the Gospel reading into proper perspective we need to understand the unfolding of events that happened before the announcement of the birth of Jesus. After Luke recounts a genealogy we are then introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth, who will find out that late in life they will bear a son.
The scripture scholar will tell you that this Sunday Gospel reading, from the Lucan infancy narratives, is a direct comparison to the earlier events (Luke 1:5-25). This Sunday we hear Gabriel’s annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary which was written to directly compare to Gabriel’s annunciation of the birth of John to Zechariah.
The high point of the comparison is between John, who will “be great before the Lord,” and Jesus who will will “reign over the house of Jacob forever.” In Luke’s community the competing interests between John the Baptist disciples and Jesus disciples needed to be fully explained. John was great, but Jesus will reign.
Therefore, the focus of this reading is discipleship. Specifically, the discipleship to Jesus.
Now we are called upon to work together, as we are sent out into the world, to continue what has been begun and to let the Spirit work in us for the healing of all nations and the uncovering and extending of the kingdom that arrived in the person and presence of Jesus among us.
– Megan McKenna “Praying the Rosary p. 216
The kingdom of heaven on earth was announced by Gabriel. Deciding to become a disciple of Jesus and build that kingdom is what is before us all this Sunday.
In Luke’s account, Mary said yes when the decision of discipleship came up. Arguably, Mary was the first disciple to answer the call. If we are to follow her example then we must say yes to discipleship.
It is not easy to build the kingdom of God on earth (as it is in heaven), but it is what we are called to do. Love God. Love your neighbor, as you love yourself. These are easy to say but harder to do.
Discipleship costs all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. That is less God’s doing than our own. If the world were kinder to its reformers, discipleship might be a piece of cake, but it’s not, and Jesus doesn’t want anyone to be fooled.
– Barbara Brown Taylor “Bread of Angels”, p. 49
We are in the season of Advent, and as part of our preparation for Christmas we are asked to examine our commitment to discipleship. On Christmas day we celebrate the beginning of the kingdom of God that Jesus brought with Him. Our role is to see that we do everything we can to build God’s kingdom in our world.
If you take one thing away from this homily it should be that we are called to say yes to the discipleship of Jesus. Through our good work the reign of God will see the kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.
I pray that as you examine your discipleship this Advent season you will say “yes”, following the example of Mary.