Fourth Sunday of Advent – A
(18th of December 2022)
P. Klaus Dietz S.J.
In the first reading of the book of Isaiah we heard the name Emmanuel, and in the gospel the prophecy is quoted.
In the 7th century before Christ, the Jewish king Ahaz was depressed. A huge crowd of enemies was approaching Jerusalem and threatened to conquer it. But Isaiah gave him a prophecy of consolation: “Don’t worry! The maiden will give birth to a son, whom she will call Emmanuel, God-is-with-us! It is a sign for you: God will help you.” And really, king Ahaz and Jerusalem were saved.
“God-is-with-us!” became a war-cry for many armies during history. When the Turks and the Europeans, the Christians and the Moslems during 15th, 16th and 17th century were swinging their swords against each other, they cried: “God-is-with-us!” in different languages, but with the same conviction.
In 1914, the French and the German soldiers wrote “God-is-with-us!” on the railway-wagons, which took them to the front. I don’t know, if in our time Ukrainians and Russians are fighting each other, they perhaps are convinced that “God-is-with-us!”
But God is not a military general on the one side against the other. He is the father in heaven for all his troublesome children.
Religions, too, use to declare with confidence: “God-is-with-us! We have the truth.” Well, they have the right to say so. If they are not convinced, that they are the best way to serve God, they lose their right to exist. – But God cannot be confined in any religious systems. He is the God of all, who seek him with sincere heart.
How can we poor creatures prove that the own religion is the best way to God? There are two reasons to prove it: What is the religion teaching about God and what about us men?
- Which religion speaks best about the divine mystery as love– beyond human thoughts and conceptions? Which religion teaches about God’s mercy for all and gives us hope beyond death?
- Is the own religion forming people to be respectful and loving persons, more than others? It is a noble competition among all religions. We Christians are participating in that competition of theological arguments and moral improvement.
How understand the different religions their contact with God?
“God-is-with-us!” means for example in the religion of Hindus: God is inside a human being, God is inside all living creatures, God is a divine reality in all that is.
“God-is-with-us!” means in the religions of Jews and Moslems: God is living in eternal majesty, and we cannot describe him.
“God-is-with-us!” means in the religion of the Christians: God is both – He is inside of us and beyond our ideas and explanations. God is scintilla animae, a divine spark of his presence in the depth of every human soul. And God is incarnated as our brother Jesus Christ, who in a very concrete way, 2000 years ago, was “God-is-with-us!” and who still walks on our side.
The gospel of Jesus Christ describes in detail how God became one of us, Emmanuel, “God-is-with-us!” In Jesus, God the Eternal and Almighty became a weak human being, who participated in the most extreme human conditions: from his birth in a poor stable until his shameful death on a cross. Jesus was the voice of God, his mercy, his smile, his healing power. In Jesus, God was with us in sorrows and happiness. Really, Jesus was Emmanuel, “God-is-with-us!”
What does it mean for us, today, here?
A deep and strong security! We are not alone. Even a person who has no family or friends is never alone. God is with us – always. Jesus walks with us through life. “Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side…” So, the psalmist sings. We know: Jesus Christ walked through the dark valley of death and reached the glory of heaven. He is walking with us, when we must meet problems, catastrophes, and death, and beyond our life on earth He will lead us to the glory of heaven.
That is the deepest meaning of Emmanuel, “God-is-with-us!”