She Will Give Birth to Him Again – in Our Hearts
December 21, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Sunday of Advent
Reading I (Micah 5:1-4a) Reading II (Hebrews 10:5-10)
Gospel (St. Luke 1:39-45)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Micah, there is a line there that sticks out like a sore thumb when you are really looking for it. It says that He “will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne her child.” “He will give them up.” That exact same phrase is used by Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans when Saint Paul is talking about the sin of homosexuality. He says three times in the first chapter (in fact, three times just within a couple of verses) that God gave them up. He gave them up to the desires of their flesh; He gave them up to their lust; He gave them up because they did not want to follow God. “They chose to worship the creature rather than the Creator,” he says, “and so He gave them up.”
Now we know that there is absolutely nothing worse that could happen to a person than for God to simply allow you to go your own way. In our humanness, we sometimes think it is unfair that God allows people who want to live an immoral life to go off and do whatever they want, and they seem to do quite well. They proliferate sin upon sin and then they get rich on top of it. They have lots of comfort and ease and all the things of this world, and we look at it and say, “It’s not fair! I’m trying to do what’s right and I get kicked around and I don’t get a break sometimes. God doesn’t even let me step a little bit out of line and He just smacks me. Everything that I try to do just crumbles in my hands sometimes and it just doesn’t seem fair. How come these people can have things so easily and I just can’t seem to get my act together at all?” It is because God loves you and He has given up on the other ones. Not that He entirely ever gives up on anyone, but when somebody does not want to do the Will of God, He allows them to go their own way. He gives them all the grace and all the warnings and everything that they need, and when they refuse to do it His way, He finally just says, “Fine. You think you know a better way, go ahead and do it.” The grace is always there for their conversion but they have already chosen against Him, so He allows them to go.
If we look around in our society today, we have to say it is exactly that same point: God has given them up. He is allowing our society and the people within it to go their own way. As we have spoken of over the last number of weeks, quoting Saint Paul, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more,” so we know that there is more grace available to people today than there ever has been before in history. It is not because of a lack of grace on God’s part that all of these things are happening. In fact, Saint Faustina told us about the time of mercy and how there would be an abundance of grace available for people. And when that time of mercy ends, she says, then look out; it is only then that we are really going to understand how much grace there really is for us to do what is right. Even though in the midst of our society gone astray it would almost appear that grace is lacking, it is just the opposite.
If you really think about it, given the nature of our world and the way that it operates, you really have to look at your own self and say, “How is it even possible that I have faith? How is it possible that I manage to get out of bed on a Sunday morning and come to Mass? How is it possible that I can actually believe in all the things that the Church teaches?” You really need to recognize that even under the best circumstances that is a bit of a miracle; given our circumstances, this is something truly extraordinary. God has worked wonderful miracles in you so that you will believe, so that you will be able to accept Jesus Christ and all that He teaches, so that you will seek to do the Will of God in all things. And because that is what you want, God will keep you on the straight and narrow even though in our brokenness and our human weakness we think that that looks unfair. It in fact is the greatest gift.
Now when we look at this point that we have made, it depends upon whether or not we want to do the Will of God. Saint Paul, in the second reading from his Letter to the Hebrews, says exactly what that Will of God was for Jesus. He said of Our Lord, “Sacrifices and holocausts you neither delighted in or desired, but a body you have given me.” This is also what we see in the first reading, that from Bethlehem and Ephrathah, too small to be among the tribes of Judah, will come one who will be a ruler of the people of Israel. That is the hometown of David, and one could think, “Well, it’s talking about King David,” except that King David lived about 1,000 B.C. and the prophet Micah lived around 700 B.C. This was 300 years after David had lived, so it was not talking about David. And on top of that, one can look at how the person being spoken of is described. His origin is “from of old”. That is a description in the Old Testament which is befitting only of God, the Ancient One, the One Whose origin is from ancient times, from of old. In other words, it is not a baby who was conceived just a few months before whose origin only goes back to a certain point, but rather it is one who is eternal. It is one whose origin goes way before the day that he was conceived in the womb of his mother.
And so when one begins to see what is being described, we understand then the point of “a body you have given me” because Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, does not have a body from all eternity. He took a body to Himself. He took a human nature with body, blood, and soul, and He united it with His divinity. He united our humanity to His divine Person, so literally and truly one can say “a body you have given me.” It is not like us where we can say, “A personality you have given me. You made me a person with a body.” That is not the case with Jesus. Jesus is a person from all eternity; He is a divine person from all eternity. Jesus did not become a human person, so from all eternity He is a divine person; and a body was given to Him, a body He took to Himself, because, as Saint Paul makes very clear elsewhere in his Letter to the Hebrews, the blood of bulls and goats could never take sin away, it could only cover it over, but the blood of Jesus Christ, because His blood is human blood, is able to take human sin away.
So we see the way that God has chosen to work: in ways that are hidden, in ways that seem to us to make no sense. Why, for instance, one would ask, would the eternal God, the Creator of all things, become a creature in the womb of His mother? Why would God become man? Why would someone come into this world in such a hidden way? After all, one would think that if God were going to come into the world it would be in such a glorious manner that everyone would see it and they would believe. But instead, God chose to “give them up until the time when she who was to give birth has borne,” and then only those who would be humble would be willing to accept the truth of what God had done in the world.
That has not changed, because these mysteries of our redemption – the mystery of the Incarnation; the mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord; the mystery of the forgiveness of sin; the mystery of death and life – all of these are things that we must accept on faith. They are not things which are easily recognizable to anyone, but rather only to anyone of faith. One must be humble to be able to look at a little child, a baby still in the womb of His mother, and to hear a woman of great humility, filled with the Holy Spirit, saying, “But who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” At that point, Jesus was probably only a couple of days’ gestation because Mary heard what the angel spoke and she went “in haste”. It is an eighty-mile trip from Nazareth down to Ein Karem, which is where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived, and on donkey that might take about three days. And still, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes the mystery of what God was doing inside of the most incredible human person ever to live on the face of the earth, Our Blessed Lady, and her faith was able to give voice to what she believed, that what was happening inside of her is truly God. It is God alone Who was doing this within her and it is God alone who was living in her, even though He was only three days old.
Now when we look in our world today, we have to understand that something similar is going on. God has given up the world until she who has borne is going to come first. The kingdom of Mary, Saint Louis de Montfort says, must be established before the kingdom of Christ. Mary had to come before Jesus 2,000 years ago and Mary is going to come before Jesus now. It is not yet time for the Second Coming because things have not been prepared that way yet. Our Lady has to be firmly established before her Son is going to come. She is going to give birth again but not in any kind of physical way. Rather, the fullness of the truth regarding Our Lady will be fully known and understood and accepted and lived. And it is through that that Jesus Christ is truly going to be born in the hearts of all who believe, and that He will find a new sort of incarnation, if you will, in the world – through us, who are children of Our Lady and who believe in her Son. This is the pattern that God has established. He will give up the people; He will send Our Lady, the dawn that comes before the sunrise; and then He will send the Son of justice, Jesus Christ.
The pattern is clear and it is happening once again. That is why I have told you before that we live in the greatest times in human history to be alive. What a gift it is to have faith today! Because we are going to see some of the greatest events that have ever taken place. Certainly it would have been a great blessing to be alive 2,000 years ago, if and only if one had enough humility, if one was a little shepherd out in the field to be able to see God Incarnate, or if one had enough faith in what looked like a human man (and indeed was a human man but was also God, yet one could not see the divinity). So only a very small group of people believed in Jesus Christ when He went to the Cross. And remember, at that time when Jesus was in the tomb, there was only one person who believed – only one – and that was His mother. She alone had faith. The apostles hid themselves. Mary Magdalene came to anoint His body because she did not believe He was going to rise from the dead. Our Lady alone believed. And so, yes, it would have been a great blessing to be alive 2,000 years ago when Jesus was alive on this earth; but what a greater blessing we have to be alive now when the fullness of truth has already been revealed for us and all we have to do is accept it; and to be alive when the Church, the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, is crucified; but to be alive in the time when she who has borne is going to come once again to give birth to her Son in a new way: within us. We have the opportunity to relive mystically the events that took place physically 2,000 years ago. There has never been a more blessed time in this world, and God has chosen you to be a part of it.
So when we look at the events that we are going to be celebrating in the next four days, we also look ahead to be able to say that what has happened is going to happen again in a very different way, but in a hidden way, in a mysterious way. But it will happen in this world, and it will happen only in the hearts of those who have faith and who have humility, just as it was 2,000 years ago. What a blessing that God has given to us to be brought back to the children of Israel, that is, to be members of the Church, the New Israel, to be members of Jesus Christ, to have faith. We need to pray fervently that many people will believe and that we will have the faith to persevere and not fall away, because, if it looks like God has given up on the world at this point, we have not seen anything quite yet. The time of mercy has not yet stopped. Things are going to get very ugly because the darkest part of the night comes right before the dawn, and the saints tell us that Mary is the dawn that precedes the sunrise. So as the world prepares to receiver her Savior, there was one who was prepared long before everyone else – and that was His mother. She is now preparing the hearts of those who will believe, of those who will be faithful to her Son. Pray for that grace to be able to recognize the day of your visitation, and to be able to say with Elizabeth, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.