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12/12/2003
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Do the will of God to please God
By Father Paul Turner
Catholic Key Scripture Columni

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The Good News for the 4th Sunday of Advent, Dec.21, 2003
Micah 5:1-4a
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45

I had a private conversation with Mother Teresa of Calcutta in a secluded garden in Rome early one sunny morning in 1985.

I was wrapping up my studies at the time. As a break from classroom and dorm life, I had offered my services to the local soup kitchen, run by some nuns from Mother Teresa's community. The sisters were grateful that I showed up once a week to help feed the hungry, but they convinced me the 20 sisters needed a priest for the convent Mass more than they needed help at the kitchen.

I celebrated Mass for the sisters about once a week for a couple of months. One week, the sister serving as sacristan told me, "We think Mother may be here next week." I shrugged it off. I had started down this path wanting to meet the poor, not plotting to chat with the saintly Mother Teresa. So I didn't give it much thought.

The following week I showed up for Mass, and the sacristan was beaming. "Mother is here." I peered into the chapel, and it was as if the sea had parted. The sisters, who usually sat in rows on the floor, had created a center aisle. Mother Teresa of Calcutta sat there.

Well, I did what I came to do. We celebrated the Eucharist together. Mother Teresa took a leadership role. I remember, for example, that she started the memorial acclamation, and all the other sisters joined in after the first words.

After Mass, I hung up the vestments and started out the door. The sacristan stopped me. "Don't you want to meet Mother?" Well, I guess so. I hadn't really thought about it. "She will come out to see you after she finishes her prayers."

Mother Teresa stayed in the chapel several more minutes, and I waited patiently in the garden just inside the convent gate. She appeared. We exchanged greetings in Christ. I'm sure she said many wonderful things, but one point she drove home several times: "You must always do the will of God, Father. You must always do the will of God."

Jesus couldn't have said it better. On the last Sunday before Christmas, the lectionary positions us for the birth of Christ with one memory: He came to do God's will.

The Letter to the Hebrews often sounds more like a homily than a letter. In the passage for next Sunday, it cites Psalm 40 and then interprets the Scripture.

Two lines of this psalm stand in contrast: "In holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight" and "Behold, I come to do your will, O God." Some people sacrificed holocausts and sin offerings at the temple without much sincerity. More pleasing were those who were always ready to do God's will.

That's what Psalm 40 was saying. But the Letter to the Hebrews said something more. It applied this psalm to the mission of Christ: Jesus came to abolish the old law and set up the new. The sacrifices of old were no longer pleasing to God, who took more delight in the obedience of Jesus.

That's what the Letter to the Hebrews was saying. But Advent is saying something more: Celebrate the birth of Christ by remembering why he came: He came to do God's will. This passage appears on the last Sunday of Advent because of its words of introduction: "When Christ came into the world."

What does the Bible say about the coming of Christ into the world? Most people can quote you some part of the infancy stories from Matthew or Luke - the annunciation, the manger, the shepherds, the angels or the Magi. But not many people will think of the Letter to the Hebrews. Yet this letter also reflects on what happened "when Christ came into the world." What happened was the abandoning of the old law and the acceptance of the new law, the fading of Sinai and the shining of the Gospel. Jesus is the exemplar of the new law, practiced not with more sacrifices in the Temple, but with a life devoted to doing the will of God.

When you hang up the stockings, you think about the rewards that come to the well-behaved. When you set out the manger, you might think of the same thing. Jesus came in order to do the will of God. If we wish to please God, we will do the same.

As Mother Teresa said, "You must always do the will of God."

Father Paul Turner is the pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron.

END


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