Dominus Vobiscum
4th Sunday of Advent

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

On this fourth and last Sunday of Advent, we hear the angel's announcement to Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus, Son of the Most High God. This is a turning point in the history of the world. God becomes one of us. God is present among us.

Action starter: How can you be truly present to people you care about?

The angel'sannouncemen is prefaced with, “Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you” (Lk. 1:28). In a most total sense, the Lord is with Mary. God-in-Jesus becomes physically present in the womb of Mary. In a spiritual sense, God is with Mary through Mary's obedience to God's plan. Mary united her will with God's will. God's plan for humanity and the whole of creation is fulfilled through Mary's response, “Let it be done to me as you say.”

If we have been paying attention to our advent liturgies, we would have discovered that at the core of Advent is the longing for God to be with us. “Come, Lord Jesus” we pray. Implied in this supplication is that God's presence among us will make a difference. This presence may be likened to the arrival of doctors in a community that has suffered an outbreak of an epidemic. It is a healing presence. It may be compared to the presence of the mother around a playing child. It is a reassuring presence. It may be like the arrival of peacekeeping authorities in a situation of lawlessness and violence. It is a liberating presence. Or it may be like the coming home of a long-lost loved one. It is a joyuful presence.

In the history of Israel, God's presence is manifested in the ark of the covenant, a sacred wooden box which contains the two stone tablets given to Moses (Ex. 25:21). This was carried in their travels and their battles as a reminder that God was with them. This was kept in a sacred tent. In the first reading, David was mulling the idea of building a temple where the ark would be kept, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent (2Sam:2). The prophet Nathan eventually told him that it would not be his task to build the temple.

In the Catholic understanding, there are many ways by which God is present. He is present as the divine power that keeps all creation together and in whom we live we move and have our being. He became physically present in Jesus the Emmanuel who is God-with-us. In an unseen manner God is present as the Spirit, the divine energy that animates the Church. The promptings of the Spirit is especially heard or read through God's Word. In a very tangible and real manner God is present as the sacred food of the disciple in the form of bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus. Finally, for one who truly believes, there is the paradox that God is present even if seemingly absent in our not having the feelings and the consolations of His presence.

Whenever the priest says, “Dominus vobiscum,” or “The Lord be with you,” we answer, “And also with you.” This is so often repeated in our celebration of the mass that we just answer automatically. This greeting affirms the mystery of the Incarnation that we celebrate every Chirstmas. The greeting expresses our belief that Jesus' birth made a difference. God at one time physically joined the human condition and showed us what it meant to be truly human. Following the way of Jesus in His humanity also reveals to us the way to divinity. This is what St. Paul affirms in the second reading as the “gospel which reveals the mystery hidden for many ages (Rom. 16: 25).

God's way is the way of loving presence.