2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12,
When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given
him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet,
"Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a
tent!" Nathan answered the king, "Go, do whatever you have in mind, for
the LORD is with you." But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
"Go, tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a
house todwell in?'
"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.
I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house
and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand
Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to
my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation
of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the
prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made
known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only
wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.
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. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of
grace! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was
said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said
to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall
name him Jesus. 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
But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations
with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will
come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the
child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth,
your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the
sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible
for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be
done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
longtime national and international activist in the peace movement, Bishop
Gumbleton is a founding member of Pax Christi USA and an outspoken critic
of the sanctions against Iraq.
has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, and has published
numerous articles and reports.
** Scripture texts in this
work are in modified form from the American Standard Version of the Bible
and are available as part of the public domain.
For your convenience, the
Scripture texts, as they appear in the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the
Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright ©
1998, 1997, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C.,
may be found at the website of the United States Conference of Catholic
|As we come very close
to Christmas and complete our celebration of the Advent season, it's a
time when we expect to experience great joy in the spirit of hope.
But I must tell you that this past week I felt very sad and overwhelmed
with sadness. It happened the other morning when I was saying the morning
prayers of the church. One of the passages of scripture that made
up the morning prayer on Friday was from the book of the prophet Jeremiah.
This is what it says: "This you will say to them, 'Let my eyes shed
tears, night and day, without ceasing, for with a great wound has the daughter
of my people been wounded a most grievous wound. If I go into the
countryside, I see those slain by the sword. If I enter the city,
I see the ravages of famine.'" For the prophet and the priest did
not understand what was happening in the land.
Then Jeremiah cries out
to God, "Have you then rejected Judah forever. Do you abhor Zion? Why have
you wounded us and left us with no hope of recovery? Yahweh, we know
our wickedness and that of our ancestors and the times we have sinned against
you. For your namesake, do not despise us. Do not dishonor
the throne of your glory. Remember us. Do not break your covenant with
The reason that passage
made me feel such sadness was that Jeremiah could be saying those very
words today, right now.
I think about the ravages
of those lands where war is overwhelming to people. I think about
the Holy Land itself.
I heard on the radio,
just the other day, a commentator at Bethlehem describing how everything
is dark -- no lights where Jesus was born, because it's an occupied land
once more where people are suffering and many are being killed.
But I think too of the
people that I met this past summer in Afghanistan when I was with those
friends from "Families for a Peaceful Tomorrows" who had someone killed
on September 11th and who were going to Afghanistan to visit with people
who had family killed because of the terror of the bombing there.
When I watched as people came together and weep and grieve with one another,
it was such an overwhelming sorrow and sadness.
And I think about what
we are threatening now, to go to war again and bomb Iraq. The last
time, it was 42 days and 42 nights of planes dropping a load of bombs every
30 seconds. People living terrorized and traumatized of being killed.
And then you hear too that President Hussein is saying how he will carry
out a scorch earth policy -- destroy the oil wells, destroy the crops,
But who will suffer?
What Jeremiah says is
just so powerfully true where he cries out how he sees violence, suffering
and dying everywhere. And that's that way our world looks right now.
Maybe not to us right here if we don't let ourselves think of what's happening
in other parts of the world. But to most people in the world, it's
a world of terrible suffering and violence and death.
And it will get worse
if we go to war. Far worse.
And, of course, it's
not supposedly to be that way. And so we have to ask ourselves, "What's
And that's why we really
have to listen to today's lessons because God makes an extraordinary intervention
in human history. As we heard in the gospel when the angel says to
Mary, "Do not be afraid Mary, God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive
and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus, a name that means God saves,
God loves. And that son shall be great and shall be called son of the most
high." And then, especially, these words, "God will give to him the
kingdom of David, his ancestor, he will rule over the people of Jacob forever.
His reign shall have no end."
Remember what God had
said to David, through Nathan, the prophet, that we just heard in the first
lesson. "Go and tell the servant David that this is what Yahweh says, 'Are
you able to build a house for me to live in.?'" And God goes on to
say how he hasn't lived in a house, but God has always been present to
the people. He says, "Now, tell my servant, this is what Yahweh of
host says, 'I will provide a place for my people, Israel, that they may
live there in peace. They shall no longer be harassed, nor shall wicked
people oppress them. From the time when I appointed judges over my people
Israel, it is only to you that I have given rest from your enemies.
Yahweh tells you that God will build you a house. When the time comes
for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you,
the one born of you, and I will make his reign secure. He shall build a
house for my name and I will firmly establish peace forever. I will
be a God to him and he shall be my son. But I will not withdraw my
kindness ever from him. Your house and your reign shall last forever."
God was promising that
there would come a time when there would be peace. The reign of God would
happen. And in today's gospel, the angel announces to Mary that this
is the moment. The one born of her will be that descendant of David, who
will be the one that will carry on the house of Israel forever. But now
become the community of disciples of Jesus, the church.
Saint Paul rejoices so
mightily in this when he cries out, "Now is revealed the mysterious plan,
kept hidden for long ages in the past, the plan that is now revealed that
God has come in Jesus to save all peoples, not just the chosen people,
but the gentiles, all peoples, and that the reign of God is about to happen.
Peace will come, security for everyone, fullness of life, joy, everything
we need to be human will be provided. The reign of God is at hand."
That is what is being
announced in today's gospel.
And that's what we should
be celebrating. And that's what should make us feel great joy. Yet,
something has gone wrong. And I think we can find the problem of
what has gone wrong when we listen carefully to Mary when she says, "Behold,
your servant." The word even means slave. She says to God,
"I'm ready to be your absolute slave, to obey you in everything.
Let it happen to me as you say."
In other words, Mary
accepts the word of God in its fullness. And she's ready to live
that word, to follow that word. And so Jesus really becomes alive
in her. And Jesus then is born and able to proclaim the good news
of God's reign happening. Jesus becomes the one who establishes the
house of God forever.
But it's important for
us to notice how that happens. The prediction of Nathan to David
was that Jesus, the Messiah, the one who was to establish the house of
Israel forever, was to be a king. But throughout his life, Jesus
rejected any attempt to make him king. There were two or three times
when people wanted to make him their king. He says, "No," and even
runs away and hides on one occasion.
When does it happen?
The time that he is proclaimed
king is when he is nailed to the cross and above his head is inscribed:
Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews. He becomes king when he is willing
to die rather than to kill. When he teaches us how to die, not how to kill,
die loving and forgiving those who even torture you and do evil to you.
Jesus is manifesting that transforming power of God's love that can turn
hatred around and turn violence into peace. It's the only way.
And that is confirmed when Jesus is raised from the dead by God.
The way of Jesus is the
only way to bring peace into the world. We must heed the way of Jesus
if we want the promises to be fulfilled for us. We must be like Mary and
stand before God as Jesus is born into our midst once more and say, "Behold
your servant. Let it be done to me according to your word."
Our pledge to live according to the word of God revealed to us through
So when we celebrate
the feast of Christmas this week, I pray that every one of us will truly
understand who this Jesus is, that he has come to break down, to eliminate,
the barrier between heaven and earth, between God and ourselves.
He becomes one of us and shows us how to live according to the way of God.
And if we can say to God, through Jesus, "Be it done to me according to
your word," then we can be confident that God's plans for us, plans for
peace, love, and joy, will be fulfilled. But each of us must be ready
to say, "Be it done to me according to your word."
In the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.