|From the Benedictine Monastery, Clyde, MO|
In particular, he's prophesying about the humble origins of this coming Savior. He's not going to come from Jerusalem or one of the major regions of Israel. He's going to come from a little backwoods town called Bethlehem. And in ancient Israel when Micah was preaching, much of Israel's problems were due to weak and immoral leadership, and so Micah predicts a Savior who will be a firm and good ruler. He shall shepherd Israel like a flock, he will be strong, and he will bring peace. To the Jews, this would be a dream come true.
Mary is called blessed because she believed and trusted, and because she trusted, great things happened through her. Because she trusted, the redemption that Israel longed for was accomplished through the child she gave birth to. Israel had been laboring for its redemption for years but could never accomplish it. That was the point of the ritual animal sacrifice of the temple, it was an attempt to atone for the sins of the people. But our second reading teaches us that that's not quite what God wanted. "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocaust and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will." This is a line from one of the psalms of the Old Testament (Psalm 40), but here the author has put it, so to speak, into the mouth of Jesus the Redeemer to explain his mission. Sacrifices and holocausts don't please God, but obedience to his Will does. Jesus comes to be obedient to the Father.
God the Father delights in obedience to his Will, but we want to make sure we understand that the right ways. God is not a dictator who is just made happy when people appease him and do what he says. God delights in your flourishing, and he's the one that made you. He knows what makes you flourish and he knows what hurts you, and so he commands that which is good for you and forbids that which is bad for you.
|From the Missal of Bernhard von Rohr|
Archbishop of Salzburg, ca 1481
So it's a good exercise to examine your attitudes towards the commandments we receive through God and through his Church, because through them we can reveal our attitudes about the whole Christian life. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that Christianity is a set of rules and regulations, and so being a Christian means just following a set of rules. If we see Christianity as just a set of rules, we'll come to resent those rules and the rule-giver. But Christianity is about following the Christ, and not Christ the rule-giver, but Christ the Redeemer. To be a Christian is to live in the fulfillment of the longing of ancient Israel. In these last couple days of Advent, let the longing for the Savior fill your hearts. He came into the world to save us from sin and death, from these things we couldn't save ourselves from, and he wants to come into your heart to do the same thing. Don't let his coming be an indifferent event in your life. Long for him to come into your life the way he came into ancient Israel. Long for him in this lead-up to Christmas, and he will not disappoint.