December 16, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Advent

By Brian Pizzalato *

First Reading – Mic. 5:1-4a
Responsorial Psalm – Ps. 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
Second Reading – Heb. 10:5-10
Gospel Reading – Lk. 1:39-45

“Thus says the Lord: You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah…from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from old, from ancient times” (Mi 5:1). Bethlehem was the birthplace of David, a shepherd, who would later become King of Israel. Micah prophesies that the future Messiah-King will also be born in Bethlehem.

In 1 Samuel God calls Samuel to “fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons” (16:1b). Samuel then goes to the house of Jesse and privately anoints David as the future king.
In 2 Samuel 2 David is publically anointed king of Judah, one of the twelve tribes, over which he would reign for seven and half years. After this time, in 2 Samuel 5, David is publically anointed king over all twelve tribes of Israel. He immediately goes on to make Jerusalem the capital city, and bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (cf. 2 Sm 5-6). In 2 Samuel 7 God swears a covenant oath with David regarding his royal dynasty.
Samuel tells David, “The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son…and your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever” (1 Sm 7:11c-16).
We hear about the future Messiah-King when the archangel Gabriel appears to “a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David…” (Lk 1:27). Gabriel will go on to proclaim that “…you will conceive in your womb and bear a son…and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob [Israel] for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:31a, 32b-33). 
The Messiah-King Jesus, in the womb of his mother, goes to the hill country of Judea. The Visitation, which we hear about in the Sunday’s Gospel reading, has many parallels with 2 Samuel 6, when King David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Luke, in this narrative, is depicting Mary as the Ark of the new and everlasting covenant.

Here are the parallels: “David arose and went” to bring up the ark, and “Mary arose and went” to visit Elizabeth (2 Sm 6:2; Lk 1:39); the ark is brought up with shouting, and when Mary comes into her house, Elizabeth “exclaims with a loud cry” (2 Sm 6:15; Lk 1:42); the house of Obed-edom is blessed, and Elizabeth speaks about Mary’s being blessed (2 Sm 6:12; Lk 1:42, 45); David said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me,” and Elizabeth said, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (2 Sm 6:16; Lk 1:43); David brings the Ark to Jerusalem with rejoicing, and John the Baptist leaps with rejoicing (2 Sm 6:16; Lk 1:41, 44); David was, “leaping and dancing before the Lord,” and Elizabeth says, “The babe in my womb leapt for joy.” (2 Sm 6:16; Lk 1:44); “The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months,” and “And Mary remained with her about three months” (2 Sm 6:11; Lk 1:56).

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant and Jesus is the new and eternal Davidic King who will be born in Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2:4). As David was a shepherd so too will Jesus, “…stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord…” (Mi 5:3). Jesus will later say of himself, “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11. 14).

Another important truth we learn comes from the lips of Elizabeth. Jesus is the Lord himself. Elizabeth calls Mary, “The mother of my Lord” (Lk 1:43). As Scott Hahn notes, “This title [mother of the Lord] reveals the twin mysteries of Jesus’ divinity and Mary’s divine maternity. Note that every occurrence of the word Lord in the immediate (1:45) and surrounding context refers to God (1:28, 32, 38, 46, 58, 68)” (The Gospel of Luke, p. 20).

Jesus is God. God is the one who will be born in Bethlehem. God is the one whom will find no room at the inn. God is the one who will be laid in a manger. God is the one who will be wrapped in swaddling clothes. God is the one whom the shepherds will come to visit. May we sing joyfully to the Lord in the way the angels did by proclaiming, “Glória in excélsis Deo.”

Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate, Diocese of Duluth and is a faculty member of the Philosophy department of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England.

Brian writes a monthly column, “Veritatis Splendor,” for The Northern Cross of the Diocese of Duluth and his 33-part series on the sacraments for The Northern Cross have also been posted on Catholic News Agency's website, where he also authors a weekly column, “Road to Emmaus,” on the Sunday Readings, (which are translated into Romanian and posted on

Pizzalato is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute. He is also author of the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition at the Maryvale Institute.

Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. Brian currently pursuing an M.A. in Biblical Studies at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO as well as being a Ph.D. candidate at the Maryvale Institute. Brian is married and has six children.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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