4th Sunday of Advent
Readings 2 Sam 7:1-5, 8-11 Rom 16: 25-27 Lk 1: 26-38
Fr. Tej Kalyan Kujur S.J.
Theme: God’s new presence among us – in the person of Jesus – makes all things possible.
The majority of the South Asian sacred shrines/temples of all the religions are visited by removing shoes/sleepers or wash one’s feet or in some places even take ritual bath before entering the sacred ground. We all believe that all these shrines or holy grounds are overshadowed by God’s Power. Today we ponder once again the Gospel account of the Annunciation – a remarkable event, a turning point in human history, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. For the Word to “dwell among us,” God needs a worthy dwelling place.
A year before Columbus discovered America, St. Ignatius of Loyola was born in Spain. The parents of Ignatius’ died before he was 16. Ignatius’ young adulthood were undisciplined and wayward. Eventually he turned from his life of sin, underwent a profound conversion and kept a journal of his experiences. Later it was published as a kind of road map for others to study in their own search for Jesus. One of the “Spiritual exercises” in the journal is a guide for meditating on today’s gospel. It has three steps. The first, the world before Jesus’ birth, the second; the angel Gabriel descending from heaven and the most important step; listen to the conversation between the angel and Mary. The contemplation on this profound conversation gives us the knowledge about God’s coming into this world with the purpose. The purpose is to heal the world with His eternal love and lead us all to God the Almighty.
God has been always present in the world spiritually as we know from the scripture, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn 1;1). In this sense, all of creation is the dwelling place of God. But when God sends Gabriel to Nazareth, something new is about to begin. The Word desires to be physically present in creation. The eternal Son of Almighty God desires to come into time among the people. This is why he needs a dwelling place. God is present everywhere but as man he must be somewhere. This somewhere is the womb of a humble virgin.
In the today’s Gospel of Luke, the name of King David has been mentioned twice. First, in the beginning and the second, Gabriel tells Mary that the Lord will give her a Son “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.” This shows us the role of David is an important key to understand who Jesus is. This reminds us of the great promise that the Lord gave to King David which we hear in the first reading today.
When David was settled in his palace from the all sides of enemies, he realized that there was something our of order in his kingdom. He was settled in his beautiful cedar palace, and there was peace in the land but the Ark of the Covenant, the most sacred sigh of the Lord’s presence among his people, was still under the mere tent. David’s intuition gives us a good point to reflect on as we almost end our Advent pilgrimage. This is the time to reflect over ourselves if we are really giving the Lord worthy place in our lives. Now the whole world is suffering from the Pandemic covid-19 where many poor and marginalized have lost their jobs and livelihoods. For many the world seems to be without hope and happiness. In this trying time and suffering are we sitting at the palace of cedar doing nothing! Have we been using advent to prepare a place for the Lord, or have we been building up for ourselves a cedar palace of self-will and self-glorification?
King David’s had an excellent proposal to build the house for the Lord but the Lord has something greater. We learn from the prophet Nathan that the Lord is not so interested in buildings; God is much more interested in a different kind of ‘house’ – the human family, happy relational community and the harmonious society. The Lord wants to dwell not only in the buildings we build for him but in us, in our hearts. This is the house where he wants to reign.
God chose Mary to provide a beautiful dwelling place for God because she never thought of herself as a heavenly queen who deserves a cedar palace but as a lowly handmaid of the Lord. God doesn’t see the physical beauty nor wealth but pure and humble heart. Mary recognizes that she is small before God and she is happy to be so. As Christmas approaches near, are we ready to make our heart as a dwelling place of Jesus! As we visit the most sacred shrines barefoot out of our respect and reverent to the Almighty as the dwelling place of God. All the sacred places of the Lord are holy, overshadowed by the power of God and thus if God makes his dwelling place in our hearts we too become holy and sacred temple of God. When God dwells in our heart we become a new and transform person as Mary and Joseph. We see Jesus in others and have same respect and reverent as we do to the most holy places. Thus, we all make a harmonious community where peace, joy, kindness, service etc. dwells and after all Jesus dwells.
However, we cannot make ourselves good enough to be worthy of him because we suffer the defilement of our sins. It is impossible for us! Yet nothing is impossible with God. He wants to make us his own dwelling place, and provides all the grace we need for it to happen. The one essential requirement is our total ‘yes’ to his will. When we say, “may it be done to me according to your word,” we open the door of our hearts for the immeasurable power of God to work in us. This is the hope and the joy of all who say ‘yes’ to God in faith. The hope for peace, hope for the God’s presence, hope for God’s promises and hope for healing from this pandemic.
Our world may be messed up. Our family may be messed up. Our own lives may be messed up. But there is hope, because God’s power, in the person of Jesus, has entered our world. This is what we prepare to celebrate in these final hours before Christmas. This is what gives us joy beyond imagining, hope beyond dreaming. Amen