Bishop Glen John Provost

Bishop of Lake Charles

December 21, 2014

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Fourth Sunday of Advent

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”  Luke 1:31

Remember the days when you would hear expressions like, “Say but the word” or “Your word is my command” or “I give you my word.”    In each case, someone was making a pledge, a solemn promise, and using the word to communicate sincerity, truthfulness, and determination.   We might say the word communicated power, a power for good.  

When we speak of God’s word, we are speaking of something infinitely more powerful.   God is in fact all-powerful, and His word is not merely a written word or even a spoken word.   The word of God is co-eternal with Him, and when God seeks to communicate Himself to us, this word cannot be enclosed in some finite expression that we associate with a word on a printed page.   In short, the Word of God transcends.  It is inexhaustible in the richness of its content.  It defies our ability to express it fully.  The Word of God says everything but remains mysterious.   The Word of God is definitive but offers infinite possibilities for future fulfillment.   The Word of God accomplishes an end but works even more spectacular accomplishments.   God’s Word is never stagnant.  As Gabriel proclaims to Mary, “[N]othing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:37).   

Advent is a season of awe, and what a moment of awe it is when Gabriel announces to Mary that she is to be the mother of God’s Son!    God is speaking to Mary through Gabriel, just as He did to the patriarchs and prophets.   The Word of God is coming to Mary.  Her ears are hearing a message, but the infinitely more powerful Word of God is working through her.   Mary is greatly troubled, but it is Gabriel’s task to place her at ease.  “Do not be afraid,” Gabriel says to her, “… you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30).    God’s messenger informs Mary that she will conceive and give birth to the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32).   Do we hear those words?   Can we remain oblivious to their significance?   Yet, as words on a printed page, they have meaning, but as coming from God’s messenger, they have power.  These words express the God’s planning from the beginning.   

God knew what He was going to do.   God Himself wanted to correct the sin of Adam, to call His creation back to obedience.  To do this He had to reveal Himself as one God to a people that would belong to Him alone.  He prepared a people to receive His messengers until the fullness of time when He would Himself appear to redeem the world in the fullness of His Word.   God’s faithful people would produce a woman who would be so faithful, obedient, and humble that she would say “yes” to His Word.   All God’s preparation, the preparation from before the beginning of time, awaits the word of Mary:  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).    God was true to His Word.   Mary was true to her word and God gave her His Word.   As Gabriel expresses it, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).  

There comes a time when human words must cease.   There is nothing more that can be said because God has spoken definitively in Jesus His Son, born of the Virgin Mary.  As St. Augustine observed, “When the Word of God increases, the words of men fail.”  

It would be a very good idea in these final days of Advent to find some silent time to reflect on the Word of God that has already said everything that needs to be said.   This is why Christmas is a “Silent Night.”    The Word of God should leave the world speechless.   The world has nothing to tell us.  The world can say nothing to enlighten us, because God has said it all.   And how does the Eternal Word of God enter the world?   What is the first sound of God?  The cry of a newborn infant.   The silence of the night that changed the world is broken by the whimpering of the Eternal Word of God.