God sees ‘smaller’ as being better

By Msgr. William Carr

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Micah 5:1-4; Hebrews 10:5-10; and Luke 1:39-45
Even Christians can fall into the trap of thinking that “big” is “better,” and that “biggest” is “best.”
God constantly reminds us of the opposite! In God’s eyes, little things really do mean a lot. Throughout salvation history, God took the small and the insignificant in order to accomplish his mighty works. He identifies with the wandering nomad, the outcast, the powerless, the little, and the insignificant. Countless stories in the Old Testament tell how God took “nobodies from nowhere” to make them great.
Consider Abraham. Think of David — the last son of Jesse. Think of Bethlehem. In today’s first reading, Micah recalls that Bethlehem is the least and the smallest, but from Bethlehem will come the Messiah!
Second reading
The second reading is from Hebrews. We like a good ritual and a stately and fine liturgy — like the temple liturgy of old. But God says that he really doesn’t care much for magnificent holocausts or sin-offerings; he prefers, rather, they simple offering of a humble and obedient will! Jesus saved us more by his humility and obedience than by his spectacular miracles.
Gospel
The Gospel is the simple scene of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth to be of service at the birth of John the Baptist. The infant dances in the womb of Elizabeth, and Elizabeth herself acknowledges that Mary is the Mother of the Savior.
It is not bad to like nice things: pomp, pageants, parades, and paeans make us feel good. But God looks to simple things. He wants the simple and humble service of our hearts. Let us give him that gift at Christmas.

Feast of the Holy Family
Sirach 3:2-6,12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; and Luke 2:41-52
We desperately need fathers who sacrifice themselves for their families. We need fathers and mothers who are firm in discipline with their children, but in whose hearts Christ’s peace and love always reigns. Children will grow to be like their models, their parents: If parents are undisciplined, children will likewise be undisciplined. If parents are indifferent in their faith, we can’t expect children to be any different. Today we pray that our families will model themselves after the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
Our first reading is from Sirach. In older Bibles, this book is called Ecclesiasticus, a word which means “Church Book.” It was called that because it was the most frequently used Old Testament book in the liturgy. The book is Hebrew poetry, in couplets. Today’s reading is plain common sense: Each member of the family needs to respect every other member.
Second reading
The second reading expands on this theme: Husbands are not wives, nor are wives husbands: each has a distinct role. Children are not parents; they must not usurp the parental role; nor can parents abdicate their responsibility to guide their children.
Gospel
The gospel scene is the finding of the child Jesus in the Temple. People banded together in great caravans to go up to Jerusalem for pilgrimage feasts. Apparently Joseph and Mary thought that Jesus was with the children in another part of the caravan; they panicked when they discovered that he was not with them. They returned to Jerusalem to search for him, and found him speaking to the learned men of the Torah. When asked, Jesus says that he had to be in his Father’s house. Nevertheless, he who was divine as well as human, went down to Nazareth and was subject to them. The reflections here on family are many: The concern and solicitude of parents for child.... The respect of the child for parents..... the humility of the divine child who returns to Nazareth and is subject to those who are inferior to him.