Saturday, December 20, 2008

The House of God (Sunday homily)

When God tells David, through the prophet Nathan,
"I will build you a house,"
he is speaking to more than David.
He is speaking to those who would come from David’s line:
all the People of God, and very specifically,
He is speaking to the second David, Jesus, His Son.
"I will build you a house."

So, in one sense, the "house" is Mary herself.
She is the fruit of Israel, the glory of God’s People!
As the poet William Wordsworth called her,
"our tainted nature’s solitary boast"!
She is the immaculate temple, filled with the glory of God.

This is what we celebrated last week.
God acted, at the beginning of Mary’s life,
when she was conceived in Anna’s womb,
to keep her "immaculate," without stain of original sin.

God was preparing a house for his Son, the heir of David,
the King whose throne shall endure forever.

This is something marvelous to contemplate!
God not only came to his People
but he chose to do it by coming through his People:
becoming one of us, conceived in a human mother,
flesh of her flesh, and bone of our bone, a member of our family!

This is what we profess every Sunday in the Creed:
"For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man."

So awesome a statement is that, that we bow at those words.
And, twice a year, we kneel:
on the Feast of the Annunciation in March,
when Jesus was conceived in Mary,
and then on his birthday nine months later, December 25.

David longed to build a house fit for God;
and God’s response was, yes, but not in the way you imagine.
Instead, God himself would build the house,
and the house would be the People of God—us—
among whom God comes to dwell.

This physical house, our church,
which is consecrated for worship,
is a sign and expression of the House of God
which is made up of God’s holy people.

This is why we are right to take good care of this house.
Sometimes people will say it’s a waste of money
to make our church beautiful,
buildings don’t matter, anything will do.

But this building is not just to keep out the weather,
it is here to teach us, every time we come here,
what being God’s House means.
How clean and beautiful is the "house" of our own lives?
Is our spiritual life about doing the minimum—"good enough"?
Between Sundays, do we live lives that look like God’s House—
where he is welcome, and others will discover him in us?

You see, that is another purpose—to have a place of hospitality.
We invite people to our homes,
don’t we make things nice for them?
We do the same in God’s House, and we do it with our lives.
To be a Christian is to share Christ with others
and to welcome others to find Him in us.

I began by saying that God, in speaking to David,
was speaking beyond David, to Jesus and to us.
In like manner, when God, through Gabriel, speaks to Mary,
he is again speaking to us.
He tells us, "The Lord is with you!"—and we find it troubling.
What does this demand of us? Are we ready?

Every Mass is, as we say,
another Good Friday, and another Easter:
Jesus death and resurrection in the Sacrifice of the Altar.

Every Mass is also another Christmas:
The Holy Spirit comes upon this altar,
Jesus is conceived and born, as it were, in the Eucharist!

Do you know what "Bethlehem" means? "House of Bread."
Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus is born,
where does Mary place him?
In a manger—a feed-box for the stable!

We kneel in adoration of this honor and gift;
if we receive the Eucharist, we do so,
not as an afterthought or casually,
but struck with awe to receive God in this way,
being joined to him, flesh-and-blood!

Our best response is to ask God to make us clean of sin,
like Mary; and like Mary, to say:
"behold the handmaid of the Lord."

2 comments:

liz said...

You give the best homilies. They are very thoughtful, encouraging and make me want to explore my faith. Keep on posting them.

Thanks and Merry Christmas

Liz

Kathleen said...

I echo Liz's sentiments about your excellent homilies. Keep up the good work that you do in your parishes and for your faithful readers.
God Bless You At Christmas and Always, Kathleen