December 17, 2021

Christ the Cornerstone

Christ comes to us when we share him with others

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43)

The longing for the Savior, which we experience most intensely during Advent, arises from our troubled hearts. We live in difficult times, and in spite of our many blessings as people chosen by Christ to be his missionary disciples, we are often anxious and fearful. We know that our Lord came to our world 2,000 years ago. We know that he is present now in his word, in the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), and wherever two or three are gathered in his name. We can see our Savior in the faces of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most in need. And yet, we long for his coming again.

The Scripture readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent assure us that the Lord’s coming will provide comfort, healing and hope to all of us, but especially to those who need him most.

In the first reading, the prophet Micah declares: “He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, his God; and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the Earth; he shall be peace” (Mi 5:3-4). Christ our peace will put an end to all that divides us from one another and from him.

The responsorial psalm gives voice to our longing: “O shepherd of Israel, hearken, from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth. Rouse your power, and come to save us” (Ps 80:2-3). The psalm refrain—Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved—reminds us that we are not simply passive spectators in the Lord’s coming. We must turn to him, and see his face in others, in order to experience his saving power. 

The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews draws our attention to the purpose of the Lord’s coming—past, present and future. “Behold, I come to do [God’s] will” (Heb 10:7), he says, and, the letter explains, “By this ‘will,’ we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). The Savior that we long for comes to do his Father’s will and by conforming us to that same will he saves us from all our fears. He sets us free.

The Gospel reading from the first chapter of Luke illustrates how the Lord’s coming can transform us from timid, fearful and self-centered people into women and men for others. Mary opens her heart and says “yes” to God’s will for her. Then she immediately sets out on a difficult journey to provide comfort, healing and hope to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, who

St. Luke tells us “leapt for joy” (Lk 1:41) while still in his mother’s womb. Two unborn children, Jesus and John, encounter each other for the first time as a result of Mary’s decision to comfort her cousin in her time of need.

Elizabeth’s response, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42), echoes across two millennia as the devotional prayer of Christians who acknowledge Mary as the mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We say these words now because we are confident that Mary will help us prepare for the Lord’s coming, and that her ‘yes’ to God’s will is the key to our ability to encounter him—now and in the future.

As we prepare for Christmas, let’s pray using the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“Drop down dew from above, you heavens, and let the clouds rain down the Just One; let the Earth be opened and bring forth a Savior” (Is 45:8).

May our fervent desire for Jesus’ coming again cause us to remember that we each play an important role in making Christ present to others. When we set aside our own needs and desires to help others, we become the face of the Lord for them. When we follow Mary’s example, and go out of our way to bring comfort, healing and hope to those who need our help, Christ comes with us. In this way, dew drops down from heaven; the clouds rain down the Just One: and the Earth opens and brings forth our Savior.

At this time of year, many of our brothers and sisters are lost, lonely or afraid. Let’s bring Christ to them. Let’s set aside our own worries, frustrations and pains long enough to bring comfort, healing and hope to family members, friends, neighbors and even strangers. When we do this, we’ll discover that our own longing for Christ’s return will be satisfied.

Have a blessed Christmas! †

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