The hidden work of God

By | December 16, 2009

The readings for the final Sunday of Advent leave the later years of John the Baptist behind and return us to a much earlier time, those of the first days of Jesus’ life hidden within the womb of Mary. The readings open with the prophecy of Micah from the eighth century before Christ. He was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah. Micah foretold that the “One who is to be ruler in Israel” shall come from Bethlehem.

The veiled prophecy that from Bethlehem would come God’s saving power is not recognized for all its significance until after the


Fr. Mark Vander Steeg

resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is then that the church will look back, graced with guidance of the Holy Spirit, and see in this prophecy the full magnitude of what was foretold.

Jesus, as the Gospels tell us, was born in Bethlehem and he is the one of whom it spoke! Through his death and resurrection “he shall be peace.” The Old Testament, as St. Paul noted, is read with a veil over one’s eyes without the knowledge of Christ. Though Micah never knew Christ in his lifetime he was very much a part of God’s plan.

God is often working in hidden ways long before we see evidence with our own eyes. Such was true with the hidden weaving of salvation in the wombs of Mary and Elizabeth. Long before the world could see these children, they were very much alive and active in the wombs of their mothers. So close was the relationship between these four that Elizabeth was able to proclaim Jesus to be Lord while he was still in the womb of Mary, and John the Baptist was able to “leap in the womb” of Elizabeth and rejoice that his “greater” had arrived for a visit.

Long before we see salvation with our own eyes it is already at work. This is true for us too. The Gospel speaks a word of blessing to those who dare to trust God even though the manifestation of his presence remains hidden. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Much of the hidden work of salvation begins with preparing a place for God. Just as a place for the Christ child had to be prepared in Bethlehem so to a place is to be prepared within us. The Letter to the Hebrews writes of a “body” being prepared for the coming of Christ into the world. This body within Mary was to be truly his own and would be offered to God for us and for our salvation.

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight … then I said … behold I come to do your will.” This same phrase can be applied to the Christian. As we come do God’s will, he begins his hidden work within us, perhaps long before we feel or see his fruit. When the fruit is made manifest it often, like the Christ Child, can give life to others. In fact, others may sense him at work in us long before we do. Blessed are those who have not seen and still believe.

Questions for Reflection

1. Where in my life has God been at work in hidden ways?

2. With whom have I felt the hidden presence of God at work for salvation?

3. How can I prepare a place for a deeper coming of God into my life?

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.

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