By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Fourth Candle

Drivers in Edmonton have to navigate regularly what we call “traffic circles”, or what other jurisdictions may label “rotaries” or “roundabouts”. My personal name for them is purgatory. In the years I was growing up in Halifax, rules for navigating the “rotaries” required drivers already in the circle to alternate with those entering; they had to yield to one another. Not so in Edmonton. Drivers in the circle have the right of way, meaning that those wishing to enter must yield until they have an opportunity. This latter method seems to work better, I must say, but until I learned it old habits would kick in, and I thus caused many a driver to slam on the brakes and lean on the horn as I drove in front of them smiling and blessing.

As the fourth candle was lit on our Advent wreaths, the Sunday Gospel reading proclaimed at mass (Matthew 1:18-24) was about yielding to the one with the right of way. Rather, to the One. It recounts the resolution of St. Joseph to travel along a certain path. He has learned that his betrothed, Mary, is expecting a child and he knows he is not the father. Without understanding the circumstances of her pregnancy, he resolves to divorce her according to the Mosaic law and custom of the time.Yet his resolution comes up against another, that of God himself. From of old, God had resolved to save humanity by the gift of his Son, who was to be conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. When this plan was made known to Joseph by an angel speaking to him in a dream, Joseph knew that he had to yield his resolution to that of God. God always has the right of way. In faith and obedience, Joseph took Mary into his home in accordance with the resolution of God.

Our life with God is not one of alternating interests, whereby we sometimes follow his way and at other times our own. No. Our plans and resolutions must always yield the right of way to God. In this final week of preparation for Christmas, let us consider: the plan of God for the world is on full display in the birth, life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. Having faith in him means giving Jesus the right of way in all things. It therefore also means letting go of any plans, determinations and resolutions that move in directions other than the one he establishes for our lives. 

May God’s grace of love and mercy, poured out anew as the Church celebrates the Nativity of the Lord, enable us to yield, with faith and joy, to the divine resolution to save us.