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Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B

I’m sure it still happens today, but when I was at school, there were some

teachers that people used to do voice impersonations of and repeat certain

phrases they had come out with. There was one such teacher from my

secondary school. To preserve his anonymity, I won’t tell you his real

name, but, somehow, he had been given the nickname “Mozza”. He had a

certain lilt to his voice, which I will try to repeat for you, and here are two

phrases that he probably used more than once; I know others copied these

on numerous occasions. “Take two detentions: one for not doing your

‘omework, and one for deceit.” “If the Wolves win tomorrow, I’ll eat my

‘at.” So when he led a school assembly, he got people’s attention when he

said: “I was on the bus one day, and I met God”. I actually can’t

remember what he said after that!


In today’s Gospel, Our Lady wasn’t on the bus, she was doing whatever

she was doing at the time, and the angel Gabriel appeared to her. I think

any of us would be surprised if that happened. Why is this happening?

What does it mean? What does he want me to do? Our Lady had a very

big role to play, as we all know, but there are a few other things about the

text we might not have spotted.


Since the time of St Justin Martyr, who died around the year 165 AD,

various people have spoken about the parallel here with the book of

Genesis. The virgin Eve, who was at that time undefiled by any sin, was

greeted by a serpent, a fallen angel, and brought disobedience and death

into the world. The Virgin Mary, who was at that time and remained

undefiled by any sin, was greeted by an angel and conceived the Lord,

bringing about redemption. St Irenaeus, writing in 180 AD, said: “the knot

of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the

virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set

free through faith”.


So there is more to this angelic greeting than meets the eye. And it also

illustrates the importance of Our Lady being free from all sin and its after-

effects, so that the parallel, if you like, is more clear. In Genesis, Adam

and Eve get us into this mess, and now, in the Gospels, the new Adam and

Eve, Our Lord Jesus Christ and Our Lady, help to get us out of it.


A little question for you next: could Our Lady have said “no” to the

angel? At the seminary we were taught the answer is actually no. On one

level you could say, why would she have wanted to say no? When she

loved God so much, how could she even contemplate acting against Him?

It’s a bit like if you were a trained professional footballer, in the middle of

a very important game. You could, in theory, deliberately pass the ball to

the other side, but why would you want to? You wouldn’t even consider it.


This leads nicely to the second reading, where St Paul talks about “the

obedience of faith”. Faith is a form of obedience to God. In fact the two

are interconnected. What we believe shapes how we behave. To give a

simple example: if you are told that there is 240v running through a bare

cable, then you don’t want to touch it just to find out for sure. But also,

faith leads to further faith. Realising the reality of God and trusting in

Him means that we then want to go deeper. When we realise how amazing

God is, we don’t want to just leave it at that. We have to experience more,

and get to know Him more. It begins with trust, and we step out in faith

and obedience.


It then also means that disobedience to God shows a lack of faith in God,

as well as that lacking faith in God leads to disobedience to God. That was

the approach taken by Adam and Eve when they listened to the serpent.

They took on board his warped message, saying that God is trying to

restrict you, so go ahead, break the rules, and everything will be better

afterwards. But instead they were ashamed. St Paul sees this now as

being the condition of the pagans, who are far from God and do not know

Him.


The translation of the Bible that we use at Mass comes from the 1966

Jerusalem Bible, and when it talks about the need to let the pagans know

about Christ, it uses the word “broadcast”, as if to say to the reader in 1966

we need to use the TV and the radio to get the message out there.

Updating it for 2023, we now have the availability of the internet and

social media. The internet has helped to break the stranglehold over what

is sent out to the general public; Catholics do not need to feel so restricted

and censored as before. And indeed, the text of my homilies goes on the

parish website.


Perhaps you could put together your own video on YouTube about the

difference your faith in Jesus and Mary makes to you. And maybe you

might even begin with a phrase like: “I was on the bus one day, and I met

God”.

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