The Fourth Sunday of Advent
THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
2Sam. 7: 1-5, 8b-12, 14-16 Rom. 16: 25-27 Lk. 1: 26-38
We need to recognize God’ presence in the church and that in turn, should help us to become aware of God’s presence in us and in others.
In the first reading, we see David planning to build a house (temple) for the Lord. His intention was something good. When he was living in a palace, the ark of the covenant, which was the symbol of God’s presence, was still in a tent. So his intention was to build a house for the Lord. However, the response of God to this initiative of David was something different. There were two things which God tried to communicate to David through Nathan.
First of all, it is God who builds the houses. The paradoxical thing that we see in the first reading is that on the one hand, David wanted to build a house for the Lord. But, on the other hand, the Lord explained to him how He was building up David’s life in the past (vs. 8 & 9) and told him that He would make his house in the future too (Vs. 11).
Secondly, God was telling David that people are his abode; people are his temples: “Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ (2 Sam. 7: 7). Here God seems to be very contented to be in the midst of the people and does not seem to be very keen to move to a temple.
Even though David’s intention was something good, still we see an unconscious manifestation of human tendency in him. That is, all through human history we witness a sort of human tendency to objectify and exteriorize God’s presence from their lives. We always tend to believe that God has got His own place to live such as heaven, temple, etc., which are, to certain extent, away from where the humans live. Even if God wants to be in the midst of people, we try to build a temple and restrict His presence there.
God’s orientation and tendency is to be always in the midst of people. By being in our midst, God tries to uplift our lives, helps us to overcome our problem, and be the very basis of our lives. In short, God tries to build up our houses. The purpose of God’s presence in our midst is not find fault with us, but to elevate our lives to greater heights, to deepen our perception and to open up unfathomable mysteries and riches of life. However to co-operate with God demands a lot of openness, humility and much more perseverance on the part of the human beings. So we always try to exteriorize His presence and shut Him in the churches and temples. Today’s craze for building up churches may be communicating the message that we are very keen on objectifying God more and more from our lives, so that God may not much interfere with our lives and that we can have our own way.
In fact, it has to be kept in mind that Solomon built temple for the Lord in order to distract people from the heavy taxation that he had imposed upon people (It is like the politicians who raise some sensitive and sentimental issues such as Ayodhya temple, in order to divert their attention from the real problems such poverty, casteism etc.). We do know that at the end of life of Solomon, people came to his son and told him that his father had levied heavy taxes on them (1Kg. 12: 4). His intention was not as pure as that of David. In fact his focus was more on his palace than God’s temple. To build his palace, he had taken 13 years, whereas for temple he had taken only 7 years (1Kg. 6: 38: 7:1).
Incarnation was a giant step on the part of God to tell the world that He enjoys being in the midst of people than being somewhere in heaven. St. Paul calls this giant step, in today’s second reading, as the ‘gospel’. It was the message that the whole life of Jesus communicates to us. During the annunciation, the angel announced that Jesus would be called as ‘Emmanuel’ (which means ‘God is with us’ – Mt. 1: 23). Once again before ascension, Jesus affirmed the message by saying, “Lo! I am with you till the end of the world” (Mt. 28: 20).
Becoming aware that God is in our midst involves a lot of self-introspection, a constant renewal of oneself, a continuous purification and going beyond all sorts of mediocrity. In order to avoid this painful process of growth, we try to safely objectify God’s presence from our lives. But God, in order to enhance our lives, constantly reminds us that He is in our midst, in our hearts.
The above reflections should not make us surmise that God does not reside in the temples and churches. The point is that the churches (are supposed to) create an ambience so that we gradually become aware of God’s presence which is already in us. Sugi Sivam, a famous speaker in Tamilnadu says, “Naam aalayathirku povadhu aanmeegathin mudhal nilai; Naame aalayamaaga maaruvathu aanmeegathin irudhi nilai.” (‘To go to the temple is the first step of spirituality; The final stage is that we ourselves become the temple.’)
Loving Father, help us to realize the purpose of the coming of your Son is to make us aware every more deeply and personally of your presence in us, Amen.