As we come to the end of Advent, we see the final unfolding of God’s plan of salvation through history replete with surprises at every turn. Today’s readings tell of God’s promise to David and its fulfillment in Jesus, the Son of David.
In the first reading, we find King David finally settled in Jerusalem and at peace with all his enemies. After building his own palace, he planned to build a house also for the Ark of the Covenant. God however told him that he was not to build his house, but his son Solomon. Instead, God revealed that he would establish a house for David.
God told David through Nathan: “I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”
David wanted to build God a house of cedar, but surprisingly God himself would build David a house of descendants, constituting a dynasty that would last forever. And true enough, David was succeeded by a long line of kings from his own blood. After 400 years, however, the Davidic line came to an end when the Babylonians invaded and destroyed Jerusalem and its temple. They captured King Zedekiah, killed his sons in front of him before blinding him and bringing him and his people in captivity to Babylon. Thus, historically the succession of Davidic kings ended with Zedekiah.
This surprising turn of events evokes a disturbing question. How do we understand then God’s promise to David of a “kingdom firm… (that) endures forever”? This leads us to the gospel of today which took place 500 years later since the Babylonian captivity.
The angel Gabriel appeared to a young virgin named Mary, betrothed to Joseph of the house of David, to reveal God’s plan for her and humankind.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and 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.”
If we put side by side Nathan’s message to David and the angel’s message to Mary, we can clearly see that the prophecy of Nathan perfectly matches and dovetails with the revelation of the angel. God’s promise to David is fulfilled in Jesus, to whom he gives the throne of David his father and whose kingdom will have no end. And surprise of all surprises, this Jesus who is the son of David is also the Son of God.
This revelation exceeds all human expectations and is so extravagant and utterly awesome that Paul can only rejoice and glorify God for unveiling such mystery kept secret for long ages. (second reading)
Taking the prophecy further, Bishop Robert Barron offers an interesting insight. The house which God promised to build ultimately refers to the body of Jesus, in whom the Godhead is pleased to dwell. This house is intended not only for David but for the whole of humankind because it is the mystical Body of Christ. The Church is the true house of God, into which everyone is invited to come and receive life and salvation. It will last forever because it is founded on rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The story of David and Mary demonstrates how God can work wonders with us if we only allow him. We all have dreams for ourselves, and God too has his own dreams for us. While David only wanted to build a physical house for God, God intended to build an everlasting house for David. Likewise, Mary prepared herself to marry Joseph and become a simple housewife and mother. Instead, God planned for her to be the mother of the long-prophesied Davidic king whose father would not be Joseph but God himself. Our human dream can become the vehicle for God’s own dream for us, if only we are willing to submit to him and, like Mary, are able to say our own Fiat – “Let it be.”
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli came from a family of poor farmers. As a boy, he dreamed of becoming one day a simple country priest. In all things, he always sought to do the will of God. Eventually, he became Pope John XXIII, one of the most beloved popes, who led the great renewal in the Church by convoking the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). His personal motto articulates his guiding principle – Oboedientia et Pax (Obedience and Peace).*