Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

“The child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”  Luke 1:35


                    The Old Testament is filled with what we call “Messianic promises.”  They are the prophecies that foretell the Messiah’s coming and what events will accompany his arrival.  We hear one such “promise” in the first reading today.


                    The context of this promise is the promise of a dwelling place for God.  King David is considering the building of a temple where God can dwell in the midst of His holy people.  “Here I am living in a house of cedar,” King David says, “while the ark of God dwells in a tent” (2 Samuel 7:2).  Since the years of wandering in the desert and even when the chosen people had reached the Holy Land, the Ark of the Covenant had been housed in a tent.  This tent would travel, as the people went from place to place.  Now, with the stability of the kingdom established, King David thought it appropriate to construct a permanent dwelling place, a fitting Temple to the living God. 


                    God, through his prophet Nathan, tells David that it will not be his task to build a Temple.  It is for God to establish His presence in the midst of His own people.  In this context, God says to David:  “I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm.  I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me” (2 Samuel 7:12, 14). From David’s line would come a kingdom to last forever.  “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; you throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). 


                    From David’s descendants would come the anointed one, Messiah in Hebrew.  It is on this stage, a world in hope for a Messiah-King, that:  “The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27). So much is said in that verse from the Gospel! 


                    Gabriel in Hebrew means the “Hero of God.” To this heroic messenger is entrusted the duty of bringing the message to Mary, whose name in Aramaic probably meant “Princess” or “Lady.”  The Virgin Mary is betrothed to Joseph, who is descended from King David, and it will be Joseph’s duty to give Jesus His name.  As we read in the Gospel of St. Matthew, an angel appears to Joseph and says to him that Mary “will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  By the way, Joseph in Hebrew means, “may he add.”  In other words, may God bring him increase.  As for the place, Nazareth is never mentioned in the Old Testament and is famous only because it was Mary’s hometown.  Many scholars believe Nazareth gets its name from the Hebrew word for “shoot” or “sprout”, as in the verse from Isaiah “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1), Jesse being King David’s father and this verse another Messianic promise.


                    King David wanted to build a Temple for God. God had His own plans.  He would fashion from His creature, Mary, a dwelling for His own son.  His son, Jesus, would in fact be His own self-communication.  Through Jesus God would come to live with His people, speaking to them, working miracles in their midst, redeeming them. This is the great insight of the Gospel of St. John to be read on Christmas Day, “And the Word became flesh” (John 1:14).  From Nazareth sprouts a descendant of David’s line whose house will exist forever.  A temple may come and go, but the temple, which is Jesus himself, will last forever (cf. John 2:21.


                    What have we built to receive the Lord? If Advent is a preparation, then what have we prepared to receive the Lord into our hearts, minds and souls? Are we able to say, “yes”, with Mary and receive Him?   What kind of dwelling are we for the Lord?