Fourth Sunday of Advent
Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us (Mt 1:23)
In Behold the Mystery: A Diocesan Evening Adoration in Parishes, which was last Tuesday from 7-8PM, our Bishop offered an opportunity for over 190,000 registered Catholics to proclaim our God is Emmanuel—God is with us. Emmanuel is linked between the first reading and the Gospel on the 4th Sunday of Advent during Year A.
In our first reading, from Isaiah, the Lord invited King Ahaz to “ask for a sign from the Lord, your God” (Is 7:10). The Lord continued, “let it be deep as the nether-world, or high as the sky!” (Is 7:11). Ahaz, though, could not arouse himself from his bleak and limited outlook, and refused this invitation. Undeterred by his negativity, the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, that he himself would provide the sign: “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” and his name will be “Emmanuel” (Is 7:14). What great love and patience our heavenly Father has shown his people throughout all ages!
In the Gospel, the evangelist Matthew recorded the words of the angel: “For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in” Mary (Mt 1: 20). The evangelist continued: “This took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us.’” (Mt 1:21-22). The name Emmanuel was alluded to at the end of the gospel where the risen Jesus assured his disciples of his continued presence, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
As we are reaching the end of the period of devout and expectant joy, let us recall the purpose of this season: “Advent has a twofold character, for it is the time of preparation for the Solemnity of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time” (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar no. 39). The Scriptures from today and from Behold the Mystery: A Diocesan Evening Adoration in Parishes last Tuesday night proclaim to us: Christ also comes to us in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. In other words, in the Eucharist God continues to fulfill His promise that He is Emmanuel — God is with us.
At the annunciation, at the words of the angel and through the power of the Holy Spirit “the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means ‘God is with us;” now at the altar, throughout the epiclesis (calling down the Holy Spirit) and the uttering words of consecration by the priest, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. The Real Presence of Jesus is not just in the celebration of the Mass, as Pope (Saint) Paul VI reminds us “For it is not just while the Sacrifice is being offered and the Sacrament is being confected, but also after the Sacrifice has been offered and the Sacrament confected—while the Eucharist is reserved in churches or oratories—that Christ is truly Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us.’ For He is in the midst of us day and night; He dwells in us with the fullness of grace and of truth” (Mysterium Fidei, no. 67). The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic celebration and his Presence in every tabernacle of the Church is the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
When the Consecrated Host is placed in your hands later during Holy Communion, I invite all of you to see that this is Emmanuel—God is with us. Every time you walk in a Church with the tabernacle (in which reposes the Real Presence of Jesus Christ our Lord) please bow down in homage. Let us be like the shepherds in Bethlehem in entering the Church in order that we return to our homes “glorifying and praising God” (Lk 2:20). Indeed, we encounter the Jesus, the Emmanuel –God is with us. Amen.