Thursday, December 24, 2009

I Will Raise Your Heir After You. I Will Be His Father, And He Will Be My Son.

December 24, 2009
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent

Reading 1 : 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

When King David was settled in his palace,
and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,
he said to Nathan the prophet,
“Here I am living in a house of cedar,
while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
Nathan answered the king,
“Go, do whatever you have in mind,
for the LORD is with you.”
But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house 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.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
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.
Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.’”


Responsorial     Psalm 89

R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
The favors of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.


Gospel              Luke 1:67-79
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
for he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hand of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

+++ +++ +++ +++

The reading from the Second Book of Samuel speaks of David’s concern to built a fitting dwelling place of the Lord. David has just settled into his new palace, and it is embarrassing to him that, while he lives in such comfort, the Lord, whose presence is represented by the Ark of the Covenant, is still housed in a tent, as was the case during the long years of wandering in the desert, from the time the Law was given on Mount Sinai until the Chosen People settled in the land on the west bank of the Jordan, and even until the present situation, when David rules in Jerusalem as King.

When David mentions this to Nathan, the prophet seems to agree, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.” But Nathan seems to have made this statement on his own initiative, since that very night, the prophet received a very different message from the Lord: “Go, tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: “Should you build me a house to dwell in?” The Lord goes on to say [not a part of today’s reading] that he has been dwelling in a tent since his people left Egypt, while the trekked across the desert, and since they settled in the Land of Promise. What is more, the Lord never once complained about the arrangement; never once was he heard to say: “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

The Lord goes on to say: “It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel.” God has been with David and his people, protecting them from their enemies, and he will be made famous among the great ones of the earth. This is a new development in the relationship between the people and the God of Israel. From now on, Israel will no longer be a nomadic people of twelve tribes, but a nation settled in a land with border, governed by a central and stable authority: David and his successor kings.

Eventually, the Lord will give his people a house where he will dwell. It will not be built by David, but by Solomon his son. It will be one of the wonders of the ancient world. It will be destroyed by the Babylonians and rebuilt by Cyrus, King of Persia; it will be refurbished even more magnificently by Herod the Great; in fact, the renovation project was not yet finished during the lifetime of Jesus.

Today’s reading ends with the words: “Your house and your Kingdom shall endure before me,; your throne shall stand firm forever.” The key to understanding this passage is to be aware of the meanings given to the word “house”. It refers to the palace that David has built for himself and to the temple the Solomon will build. But, at the same time, it refers to the dynasty that David will inaugurate. David will not be the one to build a temple for the Lord, but he will lay the foundations for the House of David, the dynasty of kings who will succeed him, some of them good men, and others utter scoundrels. Nor, in fact, did the Davidic dynasty last forever. It fell in the year 587 BC, long after these words were written.

Yet, in the New Testament the line of David is seen reaching a new height of meaning, as the angel Gabriel is sent to a young virgin in Nazareth with this message: "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:30-33). Today’s Gospel reading is the hymn of praise such by Zachary, the husband of Mary’s kinswoman Elizabeth, after the birth and circumcision of his son John, later to be known as the Baptizer. There, we read: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior,
born of the house of his servant David.”

The implication of this passage for us in today’s Mass is that Mary, mother of Jesus, is the new Temple where God dwells. We call her the Ark of the Covenant, a fitting dwelling place, a place of perfection with not the slightest trace of sin or evil. Later on, Paul will remind Christians that each of them is by baptism a temple of God. In the New Covenant there is no longer a temple building, but “you are God’s temple”, a temple of which every one of us is a building block.

And so, we are reminded that what pleases God most is not the beautiful churches which we built as a gathering place for God’s people to worship together, but the spiritual temple he seeks to build in the heart and mind and soul of each one of His children. Once again, we ask the Prince of Peace to come and take up his abode in each of us, so that we might radiate that peace to all we meet.

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