daily biblical sermons

Mary's son will be the Son of the Most High who will reign upon the throne of his father David forever
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, Third Week of Advent, December 20, 2019
Isaiah 7:10-14, Psalm 23, Luke 1:26-38

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“You [Mary] will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).



Advent is a season in which our focus is on the “already and not yet” aspect of the Christian faith. We already have the kingdom of God established by Jesus Christ that brings a reign of righteousness on earth in the minds and hearts of believers. This is the “already” element.



But we still hope for more, for God has promised us that Christ will come again on the clouds of heaven in glory with all his holy ones, and on that day there will be a great light. We hope to meet him on that day, irreproachable and blameless in his sight. This is the “not yet” element of the Christian faith.



The entrance antiphon at Mass today illustrates this principle: “A branch shall sprout from the root of Jesse, and the glory of the Lord will fill the whole earth, and all flesh will see the salvation of God.” The “already” part is with us now. The branch that has sprouted from the root of Jesse [King David’s father] has come and lived among us and is with us now in the righteousness of our heart that the Lord God has given us because of his Son’s life and death on the cross to atone for our sins and reconcile us with God.



But we have yet to see the second part of this antiphon, “And the glory of the Lord will fill the whole earth, and all flesh will see the salvation of God.” This is a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). During Advent we focus on this “already but not yet” aspect of the Christian faith and many of our readings and antiphons supply us with points for meditation based on this principal. We still long to see the glory of the Lord filling the whole earth and all flesh seeing the salvation of our God. This helps us appreciate what we already have and also focuses us on the future fulfillment of the glory that God has already revealed to us in his Son.



Today’s gospel reading also contains these two elements, for the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will have a son who “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). This is the “already” aspect of the Christian mystery. It is with us now, we live in it, we are redeemed by Mary’s son who is the Son of God, the Son of the Most High. God has filled the earth with righteousness in the sense that he has declared and thereby made righteous all who believe in Christ and repent of their sins. These are those that dwell in the kingdom of God that is within us, as Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21 NKJV).



But then the angel Gabriel continues to tell Mary, “And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32b-33). In one sense this word of the angel is also part of the “already” element of the Christian faith, for Jesus is the King of the kingdom of God which he has established on earth with his incarnation and atoning death on the cross for our sins. And indeed he does reign over that kingdom, that is, over all who put their faith in him, and “of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33). His is a spiritual kingdom of righteousness in the minds and hearts of all that put their faith in Christ. There will be no end to that kingdom. It began with Jesus coming into the world, continues now, and will last forever in heaven.



And yet there is a “not yet” aspect to this promise of the angel to Mary, for we do not yet see the full manifestation of this kingdom in all its glory, when Christ will come again at his Parousia in great light with all his holy ones on the clouds of heaven to consummate all things. During Advent especially we long for this fuller final coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in manifest form as King of the universe, reigning in glory over the whole world upon the throne of his father David, when “the glory of the Lord will fill the whole earth, and all flesh will see the salvation of God” (entrance antiphon).



This is how many of our Advent meditations go. We relish the present fulfillment of God’s kingdom in our heart, freeing us from our past sins and their accompanying guilt, sorrow, and depression. This liberation from sin comes to us through our faith in Jesus Christ, because of his atoning, reparation-making death on the cross for our sins. But as we relish this present fulfillment of salvation, we also long for its fuller manifestation and realization on the earth when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5).



When Mary hears this wonderful promise, she says to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” (Luke 1:34). What does she mean by this? Isn’t Joseph her husband? Not exactly. He is still her betrothed, and according to Jewish practice at the time they did not yet have marital rights; they did not yet cohabitate. So Mary wants to know whether this is something that is going to come to pass right now as the angel is announcing it to her, and if so, how can this be, since she has no man that she can have sexual relations with. Is this to be a miraculous event, she wants to know, or will it take place in the normal human way in due time when she eventually comes to live together with her betrothed?



Mary surely also knows the prophecy of Isaiah in our first reading, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 KJV). Is Mary to be this virgin who will conceive as a virgin and remain a virgin after conceiving? Is that what the angel means? The angel answers Mary in the affirmative that this is indeed what he means. He explains to her how she will conceive, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). He will be God’s own Son, and he will come to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).



There are two aspects to Mary’s son, a regal aspect and a divine aspect. He will be the son of God, but he will also be a Davidic Messiah, the Son of King David, the longed for descendent of David who will save his people. He will inherit “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). And his foster father will be “a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David” (Luke 1:27). His foster father will have royal blood, that of David, and his son will inherit through his foster father the promise that someday a Son of David would come who will save his people. Jesus had royal lineage because his foster father Joseph “was of the house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:4). This way Jesus will fulfill the magnificent Old Testament prophecies about the coming Son of David who will reign over a kingdom of universal peace on earth that will have no end. He will be the promised child whom Isaiah prophesied, saying, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 KJV). “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore” (Isaiah 9:7 RSV).



Mary’s son’s kingdom will be a kingdom of righteousness, and the King himself will be clothed in righteousness. “Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins … [And] the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:5, 9).



Mary’s son will be the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy that Nathan made to David, “I [God] will establish the throne of his [your descendant’s] kingdom for ever … And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:13, 16).



The kingdom of God also has both a material and a spiritual aspect. The material aspect is the visible Church on earth. This will come to an end as a visible earthly structure, but the spiritual aspect of the kingdom of the redeemed will last forever. “His spiritual kingdom, or the dominion of righteousness in the minds of reasonable beings, which he came down to establish, will continue with them to all eternity; and Jesus will still preside as head over the redeemed society in heaven” (James MacKnight (1721-1800), in Joseph Benson (1749-1821).





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