God's plan revealed in Christ

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  • December 12, 2008
Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B) Dec. 21 (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 89; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38)

Who are you to build me a temple? Do I need one? Did I ever ask for one? God is definitely not keen on the proposed temple (in the omitted verses) and does not seem at all impressed with David’s offer. There is a degree of control and self-aggrandizement in a project such as a temple construction and it would go a long way to enhance David and his entire dynasty.

But God is not stingy with His blessings in this passage. He enumerates the many things He has done for David and for Israel and promises even greater things to come.

God makes it clear that the blessings are a gracious and unearned gift. David has made many mistakes — big ones — and has more or less made a mess of the latter part of his reign. But God promises faithful love not only to David but to his descendants — the good that David has begun will never be snuffed out.

People will cling to this promise for centuries — even through periods in which extremely wicked or incompetent descendants of David sat on the throne of Israel, as well as the dismal times in which Israel was occupied by foreign powers. This messiah or anointed one originally signified a king from the house of David — an ordinary human being. But as centuries passed and Israel’s fortunes sank ever lower a messiah of extraordinary powers was deemed necessary to overcome the power of Israel’s enemies.

Many of course believed that this role was fulfilled by Jesus. The message in this and similar passages is one of God’s unwavering loving kindness and concern for our well-being and redemption.

The reading from Romans is a doxology — a praise of God at the end of the letter that sums up the substance of the letter’s message. It was the Jewish practice to praise God for the various things that God did on behalf of His people, but here the definition of “people” is expanded. The Letter to the Romans has focused on the great lengths to which God has gone to bring the gentiles into the fold of God’s redemptive love. It is a secret, a mystery, and has been hidden for ages. God’s hidden plan has been revealed in Jesus Christ and it is in Him that humanity will be reconciled with God.

Throughout the letter Paul can only stand in admiration and wonder at God’s extreme generosity and love and the fact that it is not only unearned but unmerited. Rather than resenting or resisting this tremendous love we should respond with acceptance and grateful praise.

Throughout the Bible God often demonstrates that for Him nothing is impossible. One of those manifestations of power is through exceptional or miraculous births — usually to barren women who are often far beyond child-bearing age. We call to mind Sarah the mother of Isaac, the mother of Samson, Hannah the mother of Samuel, as well as Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. It was always crystal clear that the miracle was the hand of God and was far beyond human capabilities.

Now God’s power is going to exceed even these by overshadowing the virgin from Nazareth. Rather than being just an extraordinarily great and holy man, Jesus is Son of the Most High…. Son of God… and holy.

Additionally Jesus is seen as the fulfilment of the promise to David for He will sit on David’s throne and His kingdom will be endless for He is the long-awaited Messianic deliverer.

Mary’s initial reaction to the angel’s greeting was one of puzzlement, and now her acquiescence to the divine will is given even without a full awareness of the details and complexities of God’s plan. Her response is plain, simple trust in God’s compassion and mercy and His fidelity to promises given long ago.

Running through these three readings is a stark message: it is God’s show, not ours. The best help we can give God is to resist the temptation to manipulate and impose our will.

Our contribution can be to let the divine plan unfold without interference. But we are human: fear, selfishness, greed and a mania for control often interfere with God’s plans for humanity — at least temporarily.

But through it all God will remain faithful, constant and compassionate.

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