Memento nostri Domine
‘Remember us, O Lord, in thy goodwill to thy people, visit us with thy salvation, that we may see the good of thy chosen, the joy of thy nation, that thou mayest be praised with thine inheritance. Give glory to the Lord for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.’
The time of waiting is drawing to a close, and the day is nearly upon us. That is even easier to realise this year than usual. Most years we have at least a few days to dwell on the theme of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, but as we know the calendar this year denies us this time. Perhaps then it is all the more necessary to recognise what the Scriptures chosen for today are telling us.
The message comes clearest in the Gospel where the Good News is actually delivered by the angel, today! Today the long wait by the people of Israel is announced as ending, today the new beginning is heralded in, and a place must finally be made ready for the Lord. This is wondrous and is no longer a time to be fearful but rather to make ourselves ready for the Lord who is even now beginning his work. That making ready involves a great cooperative effort. The first reading tells us how in ancient times David had tried to prepare a place for the Lord by proposing to build a temple. We may not each do that but we will have put a great deal of effort into our own preparations for Christmas. Hopefully some part of that will have been preparing a place for the coming Messiah, maybe in the crib at church, maybe by asking guests to come an hour later for Christmas dinner so you can get to morning Mass, and most necessarily of all by making a place for him within ourselves by engaging with the journey of Advent and being cleansed of our sins in confession. And this should remind us that preparing for Christmas is not done by our effort alone but rather is a cooperation with the action of God to prepare us.
Through all ages he faithfully remembered his plan of salvation. He never abandoned his people Israel, always remembering them, guiding them, making them ready to greet his Son. However when David proposed to build a temple, God responded by reminding David of his place, reminding him what he could not do. God knew what preparation was needed, and promised that one day David’s line would become the house, that the people of God would become the temple of God. So in time he prepared Mary, from the moment of her conception to bear the Word Incarnate in her perfect heart, in a body unstained by sin in order that he could dwell amongst his people, and she of course cooperated fully with the way God had prepared her. He even sent John ahead to be the final means of preparation of the people. And if we cooperate he prepares us too, even more than we can prepare ourselves. “Remember us, O Lord” we cry out; include us in your work, we want to cooperate so that we can receive your Son anew at Christmas, that he might dwell in us.
If our Advent has been all about what we can do to make this a good Christmas let us use these last hours to look at what God has been doing in us. He has included us in the goodwill he bears for his people. He wants to visit us with his salvation. He wants us to know his enduring mercy. That is what the people of Israel had anticipated and were being prepared for. And so the whole nation could cry out in joy, the Lord’s whole inheritance will praise him, and we are that inheritance, we are included in that nation. So on this last Sunday of Advent let us cry out joyfully. The Good News has been delivered and God’s people are literally pregnant with expectation, the mystery kept secret for endless ages is about to be revealed, his road has been prepared and the mountains made smooth, even within our own hearts. Having been thus prepared let us begin, as the antiphon says, to give glory to God for he is good, and this mercy with which he now visits us endures for ever!