Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent Year A
Theme: You Are Surrounded by Me!
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Sunday December 22 2019
A minor seminary in the province had a “Speak English Only” policy. A penalty is imposed on any seminarian caught speaking in the local dialect. At that time, the seminary was on alert due to successive burglar attacks. So, seminarians had to be assigned on duty to keep watch at night. One night, a seminarian saw a burglar entering the premises. He looked around and realized that he was alone. The others were on the other side of the building. He had to confront the culprit by himself. Mustering all courage, he shouted with all his might: “Hey, you! Don’t move! You are surrounded by me!”
In the Gospel this Sunday, we hear the words of the angel to Joseph: “Do not be afraid!” Joseph was afraid of taking Mary as his wife for she was found with child. Many would rashly conclude that Joseph thought her guilty of infidelity. Yet this was not the case. It was not about Mary. It was all about Joseph. He learned about the highly supernatural circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy. In the face of such awesome divine signs, he felt unworthy and utterly incapable. His fear was borne out of humility and nothingness in the presence of the divine. He simply cannot imagine himself to be part of such a divine plan. He had to be out of the picture. Just and humble man that he is, Joseph decided to divorce Mary quietly so as not expose her to the law. At this point, the angel appeared to him in a dream to assure him: “Do not be afraid!” In other words, God is telling him, “Take courage! You are surrounded by me!”
For us human beings, to say “You are surrounded by me” is an egregious grammatical blunder. That is because we are finite beings. Our presence and actions are limited in time and space. But God is eternal and infinite, omniscient and omnipresent. He can always say to us, “You are surrounded by me; I am with you always until the end of time!”
This is precisely the reason behind the celebration of Christmas, which proclaims the mystery of the Incarnation. God took on the human flesh so that in the most concrete way, He can be with us. He became man like us in all things, except sin, so that, once and for all, it will be made known that He is truly present in the entire history of mankind, that He is with us in every moment of our life. He is Emmanuel – “God with us.”
This is what the “Breastplate of St. Patrick” proclaims: “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me; Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me; Christ on my right, Christ on my left; Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise; Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me; Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”
We are now using the new English translation of the Missal. One simple but profound change is the response to the greeting, “The Lord be with you.” Before, we respond, “And also with you.” But the new translation gives us the accurate translation from Latin: “And with your spirit.” In Latin, it is “Et cum spiritu tuo”, and in Spanish, “Y con su espiritu.” However, there is something more profound in the statement “And with your spirit.”
For so long, we have been made to believe that a human being is composed only of body and soul. But Scriptures tells us that it is incomplete. Aside from body and soul, the human being, as God’s creature, has spirit. St. Paul, in his first Letter to the Thessalonians, said: “May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (5:23). The Letter to the Hebrews also mentions it: “Indeed, the Word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (4:12). St. Augustine affirms it: “There are three things of which man consists – namely, spirit, soul and body” (Faith and Creed XX:23).
And here is the best part: it is in our spirit that God resides. St. Augustine rejoiced when he realized this: “I was wrong in seeking for You outside of me, when all the time You were within me. My heart is restless until it rests in you, O Lord!” (Confessions, ch 31). St. Teresa concluded: “To seek God within ourselves avails us far more than to look for Him among creatures… the fact is God resides within us.”
These saints were simply echoing what Jesus revealed: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you”(Jn 14:16-17).
Yes, indeed, the Lord is with you and me. He is not outside us. He is in us, in our spirit. Let us find time to go inside us, into our innermost being. There we will find love, peace and joy, comfort and strength, for God resides there. He is telling us: “You are surrounded by Me!” St. Paul of the Cross expressed it beautifully: “Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment, in the interior temple of your spirit, remaining like a baby in the bosom of the heavenly Father, where you will be reborn each moment in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.”
Yet, getting inside us is just the beginning. After getting in, we have to get out of ourselves, and recognize that God is also dwelling in the innermost being of the other person. We have to respect, honor, help and love the others, for God is also in them. Jesus told us so: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” Then, we become effective agents of change – true instruments of God in transforming this world into His kingdom on earth.
Let these words of Pope Benedict XVI guide and inspire us: “The heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Savior into the world – because, thanks to her ‘Yes’, God could become man in our world and remains for all time.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Amsterdam St., Capitol Park Homes
Matandang Balara, Quezon City 1119