Monday, December 19, 2011

4th Sunday of Advent - homily

If we have studied history, then we are familiar with and probably fascinated by dynasties. Dynasties are families which have had long reigns – hundreds or thousands of years – in a particular country. Dynasties have mainly been in Africa, Asia, and Europe. In the United States, our experience with dynasties is rather limited…there was a TV show called “Dynasty” back in the 80s, but that’s about it! Sports fans in the US have had limited experience with dynasties also, but the few “dynasties” that have occurred lasted only about five to ten years. Some family dynasties in history have lasted two to three thousand years!

The word dynasty can also mean “house”; for example, “house of Windsor”. It can be an imperial or royal house and depends on the title of the ruler. This is our entry point to today’s first reading (2 Samuel 7). King David wonders aloud to Nathan about building a house for God. Here, the word house means “temple”. God hears this and responds to David through Nathan by saying that He will build a house for David. But, God uses the word house to mean “dynasty”. The Lord will build a dynasty for David. “The Lord will establish a house for you…Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever…your throne will stand firm forever”. This dynasty will be different from all others because it will be forever. As great as some dynasties have been, they are permanent at best (most have ended already). This one, however, has a starting point, but no ending point.

David’s dynasty becomes eternal when God raises up an “heir” to David’s throne. The Lord says that He “will be a father to (the heir) and he will be a son to me”. This is the entry point to our Gospel today (Luke 1:26-38). We hear about the conception of the heir. The heir is conceived through Mary who is betrothed to Joseph of the “house of David”. Joseph is of the dynasty of David. Jesus is conceived and born into the house of David…the family of David…the dynasty of David. The angel Gabriel announces who this child will be at that he is the heir to David’s throne who will make the dynasty eternal: “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 no end”.

Mary heard all of this and she most likely knew what it meant. She was a faithful Jewish teenager who knew her Scripture; keep in mind she was between 14-16 years old at the time of the Annunciation. She knew about the heir to David’s throne through 2 Samuel, the Psalms, and elsewhere in the Old Covenant. She heard how Gabriel spoke of the child. She knew the enormity of the situation. This is a lot for anyone to process, much less a teenager! And, yet, Mary said yes! She said yes to bringing the Son of God into the world. She said yes to bringing the Christ into the world. She said yes to bringing the heir to David’s throne into the world. She said yes to help make David’s dynasty stand firm forever. And, through her yes, we are invited to participate in this eternal dynasty.

Two points about this incredible event. The first is that through Mary’s yes we become “coheirs” to David’s eternal dynasty. We hear this word in the second Eucharistic Prayer of the New Translation of the Mass – “coheirs to eternal life”. This means that what God said about the heir in 2 Samuel refers to us! We share in that announcement and in the announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel. We share in all of the power and majesty of the heir who is Christ Jesus. He transcends all other rulers and kings; he is the longest reigning king in history. In Christ, we have a share in his eternal reign!

The second point is that all of this comes about through Mary’s yes. Through Mary’s yes, the heir is born and we are given a share in his eternal dynasty. Thank God for Mary! All that we have in Christ is through Mary. All that we celebrate at Christmas comes about through Mary. All that we celebrate at Mass and in the Eucharist is through Mary. It is through her that the heir to David’s throne is raised up and we are raised up to be coheirs to eternal life.

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