Dec. 23, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Advent, 2017


Readings: 1st- 2Sam. 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; 2nd- Rom. 16: 25-27; Gospel- Lk. 1:26-38

So, what was David thinking? He was such a successful king, a strong military commander. David was a great political strategist who won several battles. He must be enjoying some peace from his victory as a result of his policies. Hence, he had to plan the next step in growing his kingdom- building a house for God. Despite its religious significance, that would add to his achievements. He envisaged a Jerusalem that is the center of worship. This provides the background for today’s reading whereby David summons the prophet Nathan to express his desire, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent” (2Sam. 7:2). Nathan, on his part endorsed David’s idea, “Go and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you” (v.3). David thought that he was the one who has been responsible for the victory Israel enjoyed in his time. He thought that he was the victor.

But God revealed to Nathan the true story behind Israel’s success, “Go and tell my servant David, “Should you build a house for me to dwell in?” It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel” (2Sam. 7:9-10). God wants David to acknowledge his supremacy. What type of house is David to build for God? David plans to erect a structure, man-made costly house that will last for some time. That’s not the type of house that God wants. Then came the revelation, “I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him and he shall be a son to me”. This prophecy has both immediate and future fulfillment. Solomon was the immediate heir to David while the ultimate fulfilment of the prophecy was in Christ Jesus, the begotten Son of God.

Christ is the house that God erected for human salvation, the dynasty that would last forever, whose throne will have no end. While explaining the parable of wicked tenants, Jesus explains the meaning of this house to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?” (Matt. 21:42). God’s dynasty is the eternal kingdom that will accommodate everyone on the journey towards salvation.

In the gospel, we see God’s Master plan laid out. The angel Gabriel is the divine contractor sent to survey the land for the building. Our Blessed Mother the Virgin Mary is God’s land prepared to house the eternal structure. The annunciation is the groundbreaking ceremony for this building. The angel’s greeting to Mary, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you” tells us exactly that God is the Architect of the entire plan. The angel said, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Lk. 1:32). The angel attests to the nature of God’s building. The Son to be born will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will have no end. Mary accepts God’s offer. Is this structure to be like any other building made by man? She asks, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” God’s building is different. The angel made explains to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk. 1:35).

Mary is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and overshadowed by divine presence. She understands that and makes herself available. Whereas David thought he was the builder, Mary made herself available for God to build. Ironically, David thought that the ark of God should dwell in a magnificent structure. Did God really intend to live in a costly place? Maybe David was thinking about majesty defined in human terms. In the fulfilment of this prophecy, David was proven wrong. The Ark of God dwelt in a manger, a poor, lowly place. Mary was a young maiden who lived in simplicity and virtuous poverty.

Mary’s obedience to God is a great lesson for us. Most times, we feel that we are over-achieving and attribute success to ourselves. Although we might produce results that are great, we need to recognize that God is the one who plants the seed of eternal growth in our lives. That is the reason for Christ’s coming in human form, dwelling in such a humble state. He meant to possess us in a special way. We have to open up and let him reign.

Mary’s response is, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word”. It is a statement of commitment, availability and openness. God needs us to just be available for him. He builds. Those who are available for God do not fret about things. They rarely let anxiety eat them up. They do not panic about results. They are not taken aback by disappointments. They are not possessed by material things. Archbishop Fulton Sheen calls it the “long span of voluntary obedience” when he wrote, “By this long span of voluntary obedience, He revealed that the Fourth Commandment is the bedrock of family life. In a larger way, how else could the primal sin of disobedience against God be undone except by the obedience in the flesh of the very God who was once defied. It was Lucifer who said, ‘I will not obey,’ and Eden caught up that echo”. Obedience to God's will builds a dynasty that lasts, not a house that collapses. It makes us understand the true value of our lives and what we have. It makes us understand that everything belongs to God, and that material things will always fade.

Christmas is a time of saying yes to the will of God in our lives. It is a time to recognize that God is the Architect, he lays the plan. We must be open in order to obey God. He leads and we follow. We just have to be present to his desire. Saint Paul enjoins us to “obedience of faith”. It is the best way to accept Christ in our lives. Just learn to be present. Give it to him. Let God reign. Let him rule. Let him decide for you what you need to do. Make him your coach and play according to his game-plan.

Merry Christmas!