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THE PROMISED MESSIAH

Read­ing Time: 8 minutes

 

(Ref. Texts: 2Sam 7:1–5.8–12.14.16; Rom 16:25–27; Luke 1:26–38)

Divine determ­in­a­tion and decree is this: that God has fore­or­dained all people without excep­tion unto etern­al life, for his love is unconditional.”

Introduction

With the cel­eb­ra­tion of the fourth and last Sunday, the peri­od of Advent comes to an end. In the first Sunday of Advent, Jesus exhorts the dis­ciples and the entire Chris­ti­an faith­ful to be watch­ful. This invit­a­tion is expressed in and with the for­mula “be watchful/be on your guard, keep alert/stay alert/stay awake, for you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33). In the second Sunday, Mark presents the Gos­pel as a mes­sage of sal­va­tion, hence, those read­ing it must get them­selves ready. “The begin­ning of the Good News of Jesus” is a call to repent­ance and to believe the Gos­pel. As John the Bap­tizer noted, “the one who is more power­ful than I is com­ing after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his san­dals” (Mark 1:7). As all Judaea and all the inhab­it­ants of Jer­u­s­alem ran to John for bap­tism, and as he bap­tized them, and as they con­fessed their sins, John informed them that he was only a mes­sen­ger, a fore­run­ner. In the third Sunday, Chris­ti­ans were invited to wit­ness to the true Light with all their hearts and with all their minds. With the time of pre­par­a­tions over, it is time to jubil­ate. It is time to cel­eb­rate for God’s choice to send at the appoin­ted time, his only begot­ten son to restore man­kind and the entire cre­ation to its ori­gin­al state (cf. Gal 4:4); it is time to jubil­ate for the birth of the mes­si­ah; it is time to cel­eb­rate for the sal­va­tion of man­kind. Both Jesus and Mary are divine choices, choices made in favour and for the sal­va­tion of man­kind. Luke’s nar­rat­ive of the prom­ised mes­si­ah is art­lessly simple and nat­ur­al. That little chil­dren and wise men alike appre­ci­ate this story bespeaks its human­ness and its divineness.

The birth and choice of Mary

As God rightly cla­ri­fied, his ways and thoughts are quite dif­fer­ent from human ways and thoughts (cf. Isa 55:8). Again, while people make their con­clu­sions and judg­ment based on appear­ance, God goes bey­ond appear­ance and looks at the inner state of a per­son (cf. 1Sam 16:7). It is only on this ground can we under­stand the choice of Mary as the moth­er of the messiah.

From the apo­cryph­al gos­pel of James, we learn that the blessed and ever glor­i­ous Vir­gin Mary, sprung from the roy­al race and fam­ily of Dav­id. She was born in the city of Naz­areth, and edu­cated at Jer­u­s­alem, in the temple of the Lord. Her father’s name was Jehoiachin or Jehoiakim (Joachin or Joachim in Eng­lish) and Hanna (Anna, Anne or Ann in Eng­lish). The fam­ily of her fath­er was of Galilee and the city of Naz­areth. The fam­ily of her moth­er was of Beth­le­hem. Jehoiachin, called Jechoni­as by Mat­thew, Coni­ah by Jeremi­ah was the son of Jehoiakim and Nehushta. He was the king of 18th king of Judah. He was 18 years old when his fath­er died and he ascen­ded to the throne. After reign­ing for only three months, he sur­rendered to Nebuchad­nezzer, king of Babylon, who had laid siege to Jer­u­s­alem. To know more read 2Kings 24. While Jehoiachin means God will estab­lish or one estab­lished by God, Jehoiakim means God will raise or one raised by God. On the oth­er hand, Hanna means favoured, gra­cious. Their lives were plain and right in the sight of the Lord, pious and fault­less before men. They lived for about twenty years chastely, in the favour of God, and the esteem of men, without any chil­dren. They vowed, if God should favour them with any issue, they would devote it to the ser­vice of the Lord; on which account they went at every feast in the year to the temple of the Lord.

When Joachim’s offer­ing was rejec­ted by the high priest due to his child­less­ness, he was saddened and went into isol­a­tion. It was on this cir­cum­stance that the angel of the Lord stood by him with a prodi­gious light and said to him “Anna your wife shall bring you a daugh­ter, and you shall call her name Miri­am (Mary); She shall, accord­ing to your vow, be devoted to the Lord from her infancy, and be filled with the Holy Ghost from her mother’s womb; She shall neither eat nor drink any­thing which is unclean, nor shall her con­ver­sa­tion be without among the com­mon people, but in the temple of the Lord; that so she may not fall under any slander or sus­pi­cion of what is bad. So in the pro­cess of her years, as she shall be in a mira­cu­lous way born of one that was bar­ren, so she shall, while yet a vir­gin, in a way unpar­alleled, bring forth the Son of the most High God, who shall, be called Jesus, and, accord­ing to the sig­ni­fic­a­tion of his name, be the Saviour of all nations.” When three years were expired, and the time of her wean­ing com­plete, they brought the Vir­gin to the temple of the Lord with offer­ings. Vir­gin of the Lord, as she advanced in fears, increased also in per­fec­tions, and accord­ing to the say­ing of the Psalm­ist, her fath­er and moth­er for­sook her, but the Lord took care of her (cf. Ps 27:10). The rest of the story con­tin­ues how Mary was later betrothed to Joseph through the cast­ing of lot. This is the story of the young girl who received Gab­ri­el, the mes­sen­ger of God.

The favoured one

When angel Gab­ri­el got to Miri­am (Eng­lish: Mary), “Rejoice, most favoured one. The Lord is with you! After announ­cing the birth of John the Bap­tizer, Luke con­tin­ues, and nar­rates the birth of Jesus, the mes­si­ah. As John acknow­ledged, the One com­ing after him, who is Jesus, is great­er than he. This great­ness is mani­fes­ted in the vir­gin­al con­cep­tion of Jesus and in his extraordin­ary work. After the greet­ing of the angel, and as Miri­am pondered on the sig­ni­fic­ance of such greet­ing, the angel con­tin­ued and asked Miri­am not to be afraid because she “has found favour with God” (Luke 1:30). The Greek term char­is trans­lated as ‘favour’ in Eng­lish lit­er­ally means grace. Reli­giously, and in ref­er­ence to God’s inter­ven­tion in human affair or con­di­tion, char­is means kind­ness, grace, favour, help­ful­ness (cf. also John 1:16; Eph 2:8). Miri­am should rejoice because she has been favoured by God. In Gen­es­is 6:8, we equally read that Noah found favour in the sight of the Lord. And because of this, he was exemp­ted from God’s decision to wipe out the entire cre­ation because of Man (cf. Gen 6:1–7). Just like char­is, the Greek term chairō implies joy. As used in Luke 1:28, chairō is a form of greet­ing which implies wish. In oth­er words, when used in the imper­at­ive as in Luke 1:28, chairō is a wish greet­ing and could there­fore, be trans­lated as good morn­ing, hail. Hence, Luke 1:30 could as well be trans­lated as “good morning/hail, most favoured one…!” That Mary found favour before God means she is the recip­i­ent of God’s grace, not the donor of grace. She is also the medi­at­rix of all graces. It is to the humble and child­like maid­en that the supreme hon­our of woman­hood is giv­en. The choice of Mary was one of pure grace.

The promised messiah – his mission

As explained in our pre­vi­ous reflec­tion, the First Read­ing of the Third Sunday of Advent out­lines the func­tions of the mes­si­ah (cf. Isa 61:1–2). In Luke 4:16b-20, we read that as Jesus entered the Syn­agogue, as his cus­tom was, on the Sab­bath, “he stood up to read and he was giv­en the book/scroll of proph­et Isai­ah and unrolling the book he found the place where it was writ­ten. The Spir­it of the Lord is upon me, for this he has anoin­ted me: to bring the Good News to the poor he has sent me, to pro­claim liberation/freedom to the pris­on­ers to the blind the recov­ery of sight, to send the oppressed away/free, to pro­claim the year accept­able to the Lord.” It is with this Isai­an pas­sage that Jesus presents him­self at the begin­ning of his mis­sion. Con­tinu­ing, after reas­sur­ing Miri­am, the angel said to her “you will con­ceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). The angel con­tin­ued and gave more details about the forth­com­ing mes­si­ah. He will be great; he will be called Son of the Most High; the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancest­or Dav­id; he will rule over the house of Jac­ob forever; and his reign will have no end.

Accord­ing to Luke, “the essence of Jesus’ mes­si­an­ic work is expressed in the phrase ‘to set free’ (Greek: aph­es­is). This means Jesus will do what the nations had failed to do. It makes the pro­clam­a­tion mes­si­an­ic, not merely proph­et­ic, because Jesus does not just pro­claim the mes­sage, he brings deliv­er­ance and he is the mes­sage of the Fath­er. This is why the com­mem­or­a­tion of the birth of Jesus arouses immense joy in and among Chris­ti­ans. What the nations could not do, Jesus will achieve. The peace and justice which civil and reli­gious lead­ers have failed to achieve, will be accom­plished by Jesus. As recor­ded in Isai­ah 11:1–11, Jesus, the shoot that springs from the stock of Jesse, on him will rest the spir­it of the Lord; the spir­it of wis­dom and insight; the spir­it of coun­sel and power; and the spir­it of know­ledge and of the fear of the Lord. His judg­ment will not be based on appear­ance and his ver­dict will not be foun­ded on hearsay. Integ­rity is the loin­cloth round his waist and faith­ful­ness the belt about his hips. He will stand as a sig­nal for the peoples and his reign will not have an end. In his day, justice shall flour­ish and peace till the moon fails (cf. Ps 71).”[1] Next page.…

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