Homily on the 4th Sunday of Advent
Should you build me a house to dwell in? (2Sm 7:5)
Being an uncle of six nieces and nephews, I have never forgotten the joyful and exciting preparation of our family home before the birth of each of them. Preparing a home for our Savior is the best phrase to capture the message of Holy Scriptures on this 4th Sunday of Advent:
Just as in the first reading (from 2 Samuel), David was occupied with construction of the house for the Ark of God; so in the Gospel, God’s Spirit was looking for the dwelling place on earth for the Eternal Word and found an acceptable: The Womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Speaking of the Holy Spirit in the mystery of the Incarnation, let us reflect on the Prayer over the Offerings (the presiding priest said this prayer after the preparation of the altar).
This Prayer is one among what the Roman Missal called “the presidential prayers”: “These prayers are addressed to God by the Priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ, in the name of the entire holy people and of all presents” (GRIM no.30). This is how the Prayer over the Offerings for Mass of 4th Sunday of Advent goes:
May the Holy Spirit, O Lord,
sanctify these gifts laid upon your altar,
just as he filled with his power the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
The angel in the Gospel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35). Thus, the Incarnation was accomplished by the marvelous power of the Spirit. The Prayer over the Offerings today shows the connection between the incarnation and the consecration of the bread and wine at Mass: the work of the same Spirit. In every Eucharistic Prayer, there is an Epiclesis “in which, by means of particular invocation, the Church implores the power of the Holy Spirit that the gifts offered by human hands be consecrated, that is, become Christ’s Body and Blood, and that the unblemished sacrificial Victim to be consumed in Communion may be for the salvation of those who will partake of it” (GIRM no. 79).
Architects sometimes captured the very essence of this prayer by designing over the altar a monumental baldachin, a canopy supported by four corkscrew columns. On the underside of the canopy directly over the place on the altar where the gifts of bread and wine are placed is an image of the Holy Spirit. As the people approach the altar to receive communion, they stand under a dome with the image of the Spirit at its peak. So, too, the Spirit sanctifies the assembly engaged in the liturgy and brings unity to the Church.
My dear friends, reflecting on this Prayer calls you and I to make the final preparation for the dwelling place of the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit that caused the incarnation and the transubstantiation. It is through this same Holy Spirit that you and I can worthily welcome Christ. When the priest gave absolution in the Sacrament of Penance, the declaration truly articulates the role of the Holy Spirit in cleansing us of our sins: “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; . . .” The Holy Spirit made the womb of Mary a dwelling place for the Eternal Word. The same Spirit brought about the transubstantiation at Mass. Now in Confession God’s Spirit prepares our souls for Holy Communion!
When is the last time you went to Confession? Understandably, some of you find this difficult because in your faith formation, you were not taught the practice of frequent confession. All priests will help you in the process. May all take this warning from St. Paul seriously: “Whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:28-29).
Christmas is nearby! May all of us spiritually prepare ourselves well to welcome the Lord, especially when He places Himself into our hands and into our heart in the Holy Eucharist at every Mass, particularly on Christmas Day.