Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Will Be A Father To Him, And He Shall Be A Son To Me.

Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1

2 Samuel 7:4-17
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?
I have not dwelt in a house
from the day on which I led the children of Israel
out of Egypt to the present,
but I have been going about in a tent under cloth.
In all my wanderings everywhere

among the children of Israel,
did I ever utter a word to any one of the judges
whom I charged to tend my people Israel, to ask:
Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’
“Now then, speak thus to my servant David,
‘The LORD of hosts has this 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.
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.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
And if he does wrong,
I will correct him with the rod of men
and with human chastisements;
but I will not withdraw my favor from him
as I withdrew it from your predecessor Saul,
whom I removed from my presence.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.’”
Nathan reported all these words and this entire vision to David.


David is now comfortably set up in his new palace in Jerusalem and there is relative peace as his enemies are, for the time being, lying low. It is in this situation that David begins to think of the ark of the Lord. He approaches the prophet Nathan and says: “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” Nathan seems to agree and tells David to go ahead and do whatever he has in mind because the Lord is with him. In this, the prophet is not quite right because that very night the Lord had a prophetic message for Nathan to pass on to David.

The prophecy is built round a contrast – David is not to build a house (a temple) for God, rather he is to build a House, that is, a dynasty. The essence of the prophecy is the perpetuity of the Davidic house and this is how David understands it. And that is reflected in the Responsorial Psalm for today.

Up to this point, every experience David has had points clearly to a special calling to be the shepherd of his people. He has led his people to victory over their enemies. All this is part of establishing David as head of a dynasty giving security to his people for generations to come.

The prophecy, then, stretches beyond Solomon, David’s immediate successor, to whom it is applied a little later in the passage and in other OT texts. It also points to a very special descendant who will enjoy God’s special favor, namely, the Messiah Jesus. And the Acts of the Apostles explicitly applies the text to Jesus: (Peter is addressing the crowds on the day of Pentecost) “I must speak to you plainly about our famous ancestor King David… He was a prophet, and he knew what God had promised him: God had made a vow that he would make one of David’s descendants a king, just as David was” (Acts 2:29-30).

First, in his message to Nathan, God questions whether David should be the one to build a house for the ark and second, since the days when the Israelites left Egypt the Lord has never had a house and has always lived in a tent. And never once in all those years did the Lord ever ask why his people had never built him a proper house. Of course, David’s intentions were commendable but God had other tasks for him. His gift and his mission was to fight the Lord’s battles until Israel was securely at rest in its land.

David misunderstood the Lord’s priorities. He was reflecting the pagan notion that the gods were mainly interested in human beings only as builders and maintainers of their temples and as practitioners of their cult. Instead, the Lord had raised up rulers in Israel to shepherd his people and that is why David the shepherd boy was brought from one kind of pasture to one of a much more important kind.

The Lord, through his prophet, implies that the main priority is to set up God’s people in security. “I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance… I will give you rest from all your enemies.” And, instead of David making a house for the Lord, it is the Lord who is going to make a House for David. In fact, God has been building up Israel ever since the days of Abraham, and now he commits himself to build David’s royal house so that the promise to Israel may be fulfilled – secure rest in the promised land.

It is God’s work that brings about David’s kingdom. Like those made with Noah, Abram and Phinehas, this covenant with David is unconditional, grounded only in God’s firm and gracious will. It will find its ultimate fulfilment in the kingship of Christ, who was born of the tribe of Judah and the house of David.

After David’s death, a son (Solomon) will be his heir and the beginning of a secure dynasty that will last forever. It is Solomon too “who shall build a house for my name”. It is when Israel is at rest and David’s dynasty in the person of his son is secure that the ark will find a deserving resting place, the great and magnificent temple that Solomon built.

And God will act towards Solomon as a father to a son. If he does wrong, the son will be chastised but, unlike the case of Saul, God will never withdraw his favor from him or his successors. In Jesus Christ this promise will find its ultimate fulfillment.

And then there is the final promise: “Your [David’s] house and your kingdom will endure forever before me: your throne shall stand firm forever.” The promise of an everlasting kingdom for the house of David became the focal point for many later prophecies and powerfully influenced the development of the Messianic hope in Israel. In the years following, there would be many ups and downs, much good and much evil down the centuries but the promise held good with its culmination in the coming of Jesus, the Son of David.

In fact, through Jesus, the descendant of David, the House of David continues and will continue to the end of time.

Looking at this reading, we can also reflect on the place of our church building in our Christian life. In the early Church there were, paradoxically no church buildings but many churches, in the sense of Christ-centered communities.

We need always to remember that, although our church buildings have a very important symbolic and sacramental meaning, the real presence of Christ is in his Body, in his people. For us Christians, our Temple is the temple of our own bodies, individually and collectively.
As we mentioned earlier, if the city of Rome and all in it were to be obliterated by a massive earthquake, it would not made a bit of difference to the continuing existence of the Church. The same can be said for our own parishes. And, in fact, we see parishes being closed down and new ones being established all the time.

Another point for reflection might be our understanding of what God wants from us. David was sure that he should build a house as a dwelling place for God but the Lord had very different ideas. Do I really know what God wants me to be doing? Are my plans the same as his? Perhaps we should spend a little time today thinking about this.

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

Psalm 89

For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
I will make your dynasty stand forever
and establish your throne through all ages.”
For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.
“He shall cry to me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock that brings me victory!’
I myself make him firstborn,
Most High over the kings of the earth.”
For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.
“Forever I will maintain my love for him;
my covenant with him stands firm.
I will establish his dynasty forever,
his throne as the days of the heavens.”
For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.

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

Mark 4:1-20
On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea.
A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables,
and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched

and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns,

and the thorns grew up and choked it
and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded

thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that
they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand any of the parables?
The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
and takes away the word sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
Then when tribulation or persecution comes

because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word,
but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
and the craving for other things

intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit.
But those sown on rich soil

are the ones who hear the word and accept it
and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”


Jesus returns to his home town in the company of his disciples. On the sabbath day, as was his right, he began teaching in the synagogue. His listeners, who all knew him since he was a child, are staggered at the way he speaks. "Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him and these miracles that are worked through him?" He had no more education than any of his fellow-villagers. But the point is that they do recognise his wisdom and his power to perform miracles. Yet, he is “only” a carpenter, the son of Mary and related to James and Joset and Jude and Simon and with “sisters” as well.

And, because they knew him so well, they could not accept him. They deliberately chose not to see what was happening before their eyes. This, of course, is the irony of the whole situation. They did not know him at all. They were blinded by a superficial familiarity. So Jesus says, "A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations, and in his own house." A saying known in other cultures and an experience all too often repeated in our own day. In comparing himself to the Hebrew prophets who went before him, Jesus foreshadows his ultimate rejection by many of his own people. We have already seen his problems with his own family and now with his townspeople. It is not the end.

The trap of familiarity is one we can all fall into very easily. How many times have we failed to recognise the voice of Jesus speaking to us because the person is someone we meet every day, a person we may not like or despise? But God can and does talk to us through all kinds of people, Catholic or not, relative, friend, colleague, our own children, total stranger, educated, uneducated…

As a result, we are told, Jesus not only did not but “could not” work any miracles there, except for a few sick people who were cured by the laying of hands. But he could not help those who had no faith in him. Jesus works only when we cooperate and open ourselves to him. Mark often says how amazed the people are at Jesus’ teaching. Now it is Jesus' turn to be amazed at his home town’s lack of faith and trust in him.

Living Space
The Irish Jesuits

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

'I will give you rest from all your enemies.'

This is a promise from the Lord of the Sabbath. It reminds me of Jesus' words: '.. and I will give you rest ... and you will find rest for your souls.'

And Jesus' words remind me of St Augustine's lovely prayer: 'Our heart is restless until it rests in You.'