Paul on Paul – 20th December 2020

4th Sunday in Advent; Year B
Romans 16:25-27

Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith. This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be. He alone is wisdom; give glory therefore to him through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.

Have you ever watched a film and then, knowing the ending, watched it a second time and seen thing you missed the first time? That he was a ghost the whole time; that he was his father; that it was his sled? And then, when you watch it that second time, you see all the clues that were there all along and you wonder how you could ever have missed them! That is, in essence, what St. Paul is saying as he ends his letter to the fledging Church in Rome nearly 2000 years ago.

The First Old Testament readings for Mass on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Sundays during Advent all come from the Prophet Isaiah, but you might notice that this Sunday’s is not. This is because during these final 8 Days of Advent (also known as The Octave Before Christmas), the Prophet Isaiah fulfils a different role.

From the 17th December every year, the Church encourages us to pray with and reflect on the 7 ‘O Antiphons’. Each of these antiphons is a description of Christ drawn from the Old Testament and each is traditionally paired with a passage from the Prophet Isaiah. These are the moments from scripture that can put things in a new light for us.

Jews in the time of Jesus would have known Isaiah intimately and the doings and teachings of Jesus would have been easily connected some the dots for them as to who He really was.  Some of these Titles are well known to us and immediately recallable “O Emmanuel” for example, “O King of Nations”.

Other’s not so much – the one for this Sunday, for example: “O Key of David” might be slightly odd for us. King David was the greatest King of Israel and built the first Temple, where God Dwelt. Jesus was born into the House of David in “Royal David’s City”.

But this is only half the story. In one direction, the Old Testament points us to Christ; he is the “what scripture has predicted”  – but in the other, as Catholics and Christians, Christ helps us understand “the mystery kept secret for endless ages”. And that is the key lesson from St. Paul this Sunday.

The O Antiphons are lovely anticipations of what is to come – but when you know what’s coming, they take on a far more Hopeful and meaningful quality. And sometimes, even the most difficult, trying, lonely and hardest events we experience, even entire years, when you know where it took you can take on new meaning – because they are all “part of the way the eternal God wants things to be”, for us and His creation.

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