Homily  4th Sunday Advent Year C: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Micah 5:1-4a; Ps 80:2-3, 15-19; Heb 10:5-10 and Luke 1:39-45
Bethlehem, Elizabeth, Mary; “the Unlikely”[s] in Advent
I am sure many of us have experienced hopelessness and unlikeliness things before in life. Or bothered with questions such as, will I ever make it; will I ever succeed, will I ever recover from this illness, from this set-back, from this situation, from this deficit? When you feel so know that you are not the first and you will never be the last, and there is something call a mystery!
The biblical Ephrathah, ancient Bethlehem (Joshua 15:59) once felt that way, small, insignificant and hopeless. This when Micah brought them hope. This is when the Micah stepped in, and told them they were significant. This is when Micah promised them a king, a ruler and salvation, saying, “You Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be the ruler of Israel ,whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.” Micah also speaks of the mother of this- shepherd- ruler, “she who will give birth” to Christ, at Christmas.
As we all know, God’s promise will never go unfilled, no matter how long. It may take tens, hundreds, and thousands of years. 1 Samuel 17:12, confirms this. David’s father, Jesse is traced back to Ephrathah. And Christ, the savior of the world and prince of peace, and source of mercy, born for us at Christmas is traced back to this tribe (Matt 2).
You see what the “unlikely”, and the insignificant- Ephrathah can produce - the great high priest spoken of in today’s 2nd reading, the Letter to the Hebrews. Unlike the Old Testament priests, Christ's vocation is perfect and teaches us how to be humble, how to give, how to be generous, how to care, how to shepherd as a good shepherd, how to be merciful that Pope Francis speaks of in this year of mercy, how to sacrifice for the church, for our communities, our parishes, dioceses, congregations, institutions, for our families, for our neighbors, and how to let go, how to die for one another. He came doing the will of the Father; “Behold I come to do your will” (Heb 10:5-10).
We have so many other “unlikeliness” in the Gospel and many mysteries! Elizabeth was a barren senior for many years. And customarily it was a disgrace, hopeless and a shameful experience. But, the God who elevated Ephrathah blessed Elizabeth and Zechariah with a child, known as John. He turned their ancient disgrace into an everlasting dancing!
On the other hand, the young and inexperienced Mary is not only pregnant in an unlikely manner, but she is proclaimed “blessed among women, with a blessed “fruit of the womb” and the “mother of my Lord” when she visited with her cousin Elizabeth. Isn’t all these to fulfilled that long foretold by Israel’s prophets (Micah, Isa 7:14).
Are all these not a reminder to us that unlikely things can happen in our lives. Although sometimes we ramble, we sort out, we try to sift out, we demarcate, discriminate between the beautiful, and the ugly, or handsome; we demarcate between the wealthy and the poor, the tall and the short, male and female, young and old, the small and the big, the sick and the healthy God can overrule all these. He can write on a crooked line. God is full of surprises. He can bless Ephrathah, though small. In Advent, we are reminded that God can bless Elizabeth and Zechariah though barren. He can use the Virgin Mary to save us, though young and inexperienced. He can show us his Holy face (Ps 80:4) in spite of our weaknesses. He can bless us, those in the 3rd, the 2nd and the 1st worlds, the poor and the rejected! He can healed us, our families, children; our churches, our nations, continents, our world, and the unlikely, in an unlikely manner, provided we believe.