Sunday, December 18, 2011

Home! The Lord is With You!

Homily from the 4th Sunday of Advent - Year B

During the first three weeks of Advent, we have heard very definitive themes in our readings.  The theme of the First Sunday of Advent was “watch.” Jesus said three times in the Gospel to “watch” for we do not know the hour when the Son of Man will come.  In week two, our theme was “prepare” as John the Baptist called us to “prepare the way of the Lord” through repentance.  Last week, on Gaudete Sunday, the theme was “rejoice” for the coming of the Lord grows near.  This week, the prominent theme in our readings is “home.”

You could say that this week’s readings talk about God building a home for Himself.  In the first reading, David, the great King of Israel laments that fact that God is basically living in a tent.  God’s presence at that time was represented by the ark of the covenant which held the tablets of the Ten Commandments.  The ark was kept in a tent while King David lived in a luxurious house of cedar.  So David has it in mind to build the Lord God a more worthy dwelling place.

However, God has other plans.  God tells David’s servant Nathan to ask David, “Should you build me a house to dwell in?”  And then God goes on to present a litany of everything He has done for David and the people of Israel, pointing out that it was by God’s power, not David’s that these things were done: “It was I who took you from the pasture... I have been with you wherever you went… I have destroyed all your enemies before you… I will make you famous… I will fix a place for my people Israel… I will give you rest from all your enemies… I will raise up your heir after you… and I will make his kingdom firm.”

Basically, God is telling David, “All this has happened to you because of Me. You can’t build Me a house to dwell in, only I can.”

Now, jump ahead 1,000 years, to today’s Gospel and we hear the story of God building the house for Him to dwell in.  The angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will conceive and bear the Son of God.  Then, Mary, asks an interesting question: “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  In a sense, Mary is asking, “How can I bear this child? How can I provide a place for him to be conceived and to grow? How can I build a house for him to dwell in? I’m a virgin!”

And the angel’s response to Mary is just like God’s response to David.  “Should you build me a house to dwell in?  No. It’s not by human powers that this house will be built. It’s not by human conception that this house will be built. I will build the house.”  The angel says to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you… nothing will be impossible for God.”

So in Mary, we see the House of God.  Built and prepared by God, she is the first place the Son of God calls home.  In her person, she and Jesus dwell together.  She is the first Church, the first House of God.

That’s what the Church is.  It's where God dwells.  It’s where God dwells with His people.

And if you are here today, perhaps after an absence of some time; if you’re here because you’ve accepted the invitation of a friend, or perhaps you’ve seen the “Catholics Come Home” commercials on TV, I want to say, “Welcome Home!”  On behalf of Monsignor John, Father Polycarp, and our entire parish family, welcome back to your home, the Catholic Church.  Our parish family is incomplete without out you. We want you here. We need you here. And we are overjoyed that you are here.

This is your truest home on earth for in this place where the Son of God dwells.  Jesus literally lives here. He is present in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion, which is reserved in the tabernacle in our Blessed Sacrament chapel and there he dwells 24/7.  Just as he tabernacled himself in Mary.  And just as he tabernacles himself in you through the Eucharist.  Think about that. Whenever you receive Jesus in the Eucharist, He finds a dwelling place, a home, in you.

Now, maybe you’re saying to yourself, “I’m not worthy to receive him.”  Well, none of us are, that’s why we say each time before we receive the Eucharist, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  You’re not worthy, I’m not worthy, none of us are worthy. But Jesus chooses to enter under our roofs, to dwell within us.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that we make ourselves worthy.  Just like King David and Mary, we are powerless to build in ourselves a worthy dwelling place for Jesus to dwell. Only God can build the house.

So maybe there’s some cleaning up to do under our roofs.  Let God do the cleaning. Come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Come to our parish Advent Penance Service Monday night at 7.  Let Jesus say those words through the priest: “I absolve you from your sins.”   Let Jesus only say the word, and your soul shall be healed.

Then, just as Nathan said to David and as the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “The Lord is with you.”  Then, the Lord will find a place to dwell within you.  He will find a home in you and you will find a home in Him.

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