By Sr. Amy Joy, SSJD
2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16; Luke 1:26-38
The theme of today’s first reading of Samuel is about God’s Grace to people. He offered unconditional love to them, and promised David that his throne would be established forever. The Gospel reading is the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring salvation to people, this of course, is the coming of Jesus Christ, and Mary was the chosen one to take part in God’s plan.
I believe most of us here have never experienced the pain of losing their country or family because of wars. But the Israelites knew it well. Without the protection of a country, they suffered a lot by being bullied or oppressed by other countries. In the time of Judges, the Israelites longed for a king to lead and protect them from foreign attacks. They asked God to give them a king, and God gave them Saul, and later David to be their king.
In the Near East’s culture, Temple had an important symbolic meaning of “the presence of God.” It was also a symbol of victory, if they were attacked by enemies, their god would stand on their side to fight and protect them.
Therefore, it is natural for David to think of building a temple to retain his royal power for generations. But God rejected a “temple”, and promised a “dynasty” to the line of David. For God has absolute sovereignty and offered unconditional love to David and the people.
In our gospel reading today is the annunciation of the birth of Jesus. Angel Gabriel foretold Mary that she would bear a son, God would give to that child the throne of his ancestor David, and his kingdom would have no end. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to David and to the people.
The central figure in the annunciation is neither Gabriel nor Mary, but the gracious God of Israel.
However, in the history of Christian church, Mary played an important role in the nativity story.
Why? Because Mary was the chosen one, she was the first dwelling-place of God in salvation history.
What shall we learn from Mary?
1. Mary is a good listener and is able to reflect on what is being told to her.
Like the bible teaching, she was “quick to listen and slow to speak.” When Angel Gabriel came to her and said, “Greetings! The Lord is with you; you are very special to him.” She was very confused but her reaction was silence and thinking what was going on here.
And when Gabriel told her that she would conceive and bare a son, she knew that the baby did not come from her marriage with Joseph. Therefore, she asked “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Mary was able to understand what angel Gabriel told her.
2. Mary obeys God with trust and faith.
When Gabriel told her, “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 holy; he will be called Son of God.” Did Mary understand? I think this was too hard for her to comprehend.
But she said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Mary demonstrated her trust and obedience to God.
3. Mary is courageous.
She was pledged to be the wife of Joseph and was not yet married. In the society of her time, if she was pregnant and unmarried, she would be stoned to death by everyone. But angel Gabriel assured her that “For nothing will be impossible with God.” She believed and even risked her life that she could be rejected by Joseph or stoned to death.
It was Mary’s courage, faith and obedience that allowed God’s grace in her. She was blessed to be the dwelling place for Jesus, and became a vehicle to bring God’s salvation plan into the world.
God’s love for us is unconditional.
Can you imagine, you too are the chosen one?
You are the temple of God: The apostle Paul told us in 1 Corinthians, saying, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? …. for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (1 Cor 3:16-17)
In a couple of days, we will celebrate Christmas for the new born King Jesus, are we ready to be God’s temple, be the dwelling place for Jesus?
When Jesus entered the temple, he began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He over turned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. He said (Mark 11:15-17), “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The temple is a place for prayer, and building relationship with God.
Our convent is definitely not a market place, however, what about us? As I reflect on myself, I wonder, do I have space for God to dwell in? Since I have been busy with my own agenda, anxiously achieving this and that, do I need Jesus to purify my thoughts, my conscience; and drive out my many ambitions, thoughts of self-righteousness, or my ego-centered self, and the list goes on and on?
I have been practicing the presence of God or called “centering prayer” for a few years, I still cannot get rid of my “monkey’s mind”, my mind is always busy wondering around and cannot focus long enough to enjoy resting with Jesus.
Being God’s temple is hard for me, but I am encouraged by what the angel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.” And Jesus is the one who has the power and authority to clean the temple.
Therefore, by the grace of God, let us shout for joy with faith, saying, “Surely goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Amen! (Ps 23)