The Bishops Homily – 4th Sunday of Advent 2017

4th Sunday of Advent 2017
Cycle B | 24/12/17
II Sam. 7: 1-5, 8-11;16
Rom. 16: 25-27
Lk. 1: 26-38


INTRODUCTION: The readings for this 4th Advent brings us to the heart of a deep mystery on God’s PROVIDENCE. Just when we are about to give up hope and tempted to trust in Karma and say “No God!”, the Bible interrupts us to say: “Wait.” God works in subtle ways, and often it takes years, even centuries, for God’s plan fully to be realized. That’s why we wait. That is what Advent means. Of all the Liturgical Seasons, Advent in some ways names what all of our time is spent on earth. All of our life below is a time of waiting and watching. The Bible tells us “Don’t give up on God’s promises! Wait, it will have its day.”

(1) Thus our first reading is from II Samuel and it takes us to Jerusalem around 1000 BC — 600 years before Aristotle and 500 years before the Buddha. King David, Israel’s greatest King, newly established in his Kingdom and having won in all his conquests, was pondering these thoughts: “Here I am living in a palace of cedar but God is living in tent (Tabernacles) as the Israelites were used to since Moses during the Exodus. This was in consonance to their being a nomadic tribe. So was the Ark of the Covenant placed in such structure so that it moves with the people. This was bugging the King. Initially, Nathan, David’s Court Prophet, approved of the idea but God spoke in a dream to him: ” Tell David first that I made him who he is now and second don’t build a house for me; I will build a house for you that will last forever; your throne shall stand firm forever.” (II Sam. 7: 16) There is a play on word referring first to his physical house (his royal palace) and the spiritual house, the Jerusalem Temple. This is the extravagant promise to David through Nathan.

(2) Crucial in the understanding of this promise is the primacy of grace. The spiritual life is not primarily about doing things for me but more about things God does for you. David, it is not you who is in charge but I am the one in charge. This language is about grace and now the focus of the story in II Samuel 7. David’s line did indeed last a long time from 1000 BC to 587 BC–a good 400 years–until the Babylonian Captivity. The line of David indeed was long but it ended terribly with the Conquest of Jerusalem in 587, in spite of efforts to revive it. Nevertheless, despite this obvious end, ancient Israel continued to remember the promise God made to David through Nathan, even if it seemed hopeless to be realized. For about 600 years, they waited and watched. It is during this period of waiting and watching that the story in Luke 1: 26 happened.

(3) Now we are ready to read the Gospel of Luke. “The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.” (vv. 27-28) We hear that the angel Gabriel is sent to a young unmarried girl, a massively insignificant person in a massively insignificant place Nazareth of all places with this extraordinary message: “You will conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus” with a promise included in the message: “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.” The seemingly broken promise was in fact not broken. What seemed to have come to an end now was just underground and is now ready to bloom in full light on the ground. The kingly line of David was in fact not severed and now the full meaning of God’s promise would be revealed. The royal line of David now becomes a mere foreshadowing. The real house of David is the Body of his Son Christ in whom the Father is well pleased and whom he will invite all men to dwell and that is the Church that will last forever.

CONCLUSION: God’s promise is not undone but is fulfilled in a most unexpected manner. We are often tempted to despair when we see no reason for things. We are like children who often do not understand why parents act in certain ways. Inspired by these readings, we are called to wait not hopelessly but in great expectation. We don’t easily see clearly but we trust as Ancient Israel trusted in God’s promise fulfilled in a most unexpected way!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches