By Father Patrick Longalong
We begin our Scripture reflection this weekend with David feeling conscious of the fact that he was comfortably staying in a lavish house while the Ark of the Covenant, where the Lord dwells, was inside a humble tent. We will later find out in history that Solomon built a huge temple for the Lord that would appropriately reflect His majesty.
This same building of worship would be reconstructed even more magnificently by Herod the Great. The project was so great that it was still being done around Jesus’ time. However, like many people who misunderstood the Lord and His desire, it was not a material building that He was asking for. God was referring to those who are in the household of David and those who descend from it. “I will raise up your heir after you, (…) your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”
For the past few nights our parish has been celebrating the 9-Day Novena Masses of Simbang Gabi (Night Mass) to once again prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus in our hearts on Christmas day. Our Hispanic Community also has been observing a similar 9-Day Novena of Las Posadas leading up to the birth of Jesus.
Both of these celebrations however, resonate to the theme of this weekend’s readings. As Mary and Joseph searched for accommodation where they could rest, Our Lord is really looking for a suitable place for him to remain; to dwell. This dwelling place is made of human flesh. Two thousand years ago, he was born as a child in a manger. This year he is asking to be reborn in our hearts.
We most often talk about Mary’s faith and humility to accept God’s plan in her life to be the mother of God. But we should also recognize the tremendous amount of courage that she needed to accept this great honor. Her love conquered all fears. It gave her the necessary courage to present herself to the Lord as His handmaid, allowing His love to manifest in human flesh.
Isn’t Christmas about the physical birth of Love among us? We celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth whom we heard in the Gospel of John was given to us because God so loved the world. In other words, Christmas is Love’s decision to become part of creation by becoming human. Scripture tells us that the human race was made in the image of God (Gn 1:27). And we also know that God is love.
If we understand what it means to love someone, we can appreciate God’s decision to become flesh. When we love someone, we want to spend time with them, get to know them personally. And when this relationship grows, you enter into a deeper connection spiritually, emotionally and to married couples, physically.
I used to visit my grandmother and stay with her when I was still a little boy. She used to always embrace me and tell me old family stories. She would always say things like I remind her of relatives long dead. I didn’t think much of it until I reached a point in my life when people I care about are slowly going home to God. It is painful. A part of me feels empty or distant. When you truly love someone, you want that other person to be close to you, within your reach.
Apparently, God has always wanted to live this way with us, to be one with us (Eph 1:10–13). This is the goal of the 9-Day Novena preparations that many parishioners in our diocese observe beginning December 15th. It is our way of telling the Lord each day that we love and long for Him too. We journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem looking for a place to stay. But in the end, it is Jesus who stays with us, telling us that He loves us too.
Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16
Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.