A Letter from Fr. Paul - December 20th
Today we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent; in 4 days we will be celebrating the Christmas Vigil Masses. King David is one theme in our last set of Sunday readings before Christmas.
In the first reading, a very successful King David wants to build a magnificent temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. The prophet Nathan thinks it is a great idea but God nixes it. Why? Basically, God is saying HE is in control, not David, and HE will decide about “houses.” A big, gaudy temple (which would, incidentally make David look good and cement his legacy), is not important to God. God then promises to raise up an heir of David who will be His Son and will bring about an everlasting Kingdom of peace and justice. THAT will be David’s legacy.
Our Gospel is the story of the Annunciation, which we all know so well. With the words, "He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end,” Gabriel confirms that Jesus is the fulfillment of each of the promises that God made to David.
But notice: there is no temple or magnificent building in our Christmas story. The Annunciation happens in a simple house in a backwater town, far from the important city of Jerusalem and its temple. The new born King is in a manger, not a palace. Instead of being welcomed by His people, he becomes a refugee, right from the first years of his life.
I think all these details are important. God is telling us, as He told King David, that he is not interested in magnificent buildings and pomp and circumstance. He is interested in bringing about the Kingdom and reaching out to those most in need.
Do we hear this message? During the 7 years I lived in Rome and traveled all over Europe to visit our Salvatorian communities, I was in some magnificent basilicas and churches. Sometimes I would be a little uncomfortable as I looked at all the gold leaf, etc. “Did God want that?” I would ask myself, “or is it fulfilling a human need and we tell ourselves it is for God?” My conclusion is that a simple space where the community can gather to worship and support each other is enough; if we listen to what God says in the scriptures, the rest of the resources would be better used to feed the poor, to get water to villages, to train people so they can support themselves, etc.
Advent is a time of reflection, a time of preparing to celebrate the first coming of Christ. I invite us these last days to reflect on our values and how much they reflect Gospel priorities. How can we do better? Come, Lord Jesus, into our hearts!
I wish each and every one of you a blessed Christmas.
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