At the end of a year no one will ever forget we come today to the final Sunday before Christmas and hear a Gospel promise about God’s fidelity to his people—something we can all appreciate in these challenging times. In fact, we hear similar promises made in the first reading from the Second Book of Samuel and from the responsorial Psalm. These earlier assurances put the Gospel promise in context and help us understand both its history and its relevance for us today.
In Second Samuel we hear the word of the Lord spoken to David: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Sam 7:16). David was a multi-faceted man who exemplified both righteousness and sinfulness yet always sought forgiveness from the Lord. Because of David’s infidelity the fullness of God’s promised kingdom could not find its fulfillment in him.
In spite of David’s hot and cold behavior, the Lord was always faithful to him, as we hear in today’s responsorial Psalm: “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: Forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations” (Ps 89:4-5). This promise made to David comes to fulfillment in Christ, but only through difficulty. Even when the people of Israel fell away from the Lord and the kingdom was lost, God found a way to be true to his promise: he would make David the forerunner not of an earthly kingdom but of the Kingdom of God.
For such a reality to come into being God desired that Israel share in the dignity of healing and rebuilding the damage done by David’s infidelity. Mary would succeed through her humility where David, forerunner though he was, had failed. David grasped at kingly power and its trappings, while Mary humbly honored God’s will. In today’s Gospel we hear the perfect expression of this humility, when Mary responds to the archangel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Now let’s note the relevance of God’s promise to us today. First, we trust that God is always faithful in keeping his promises, even working toward our salvation in Christ when we, like David, resist his gracious efforts. Turning to Mary in those moments of resistance, we can find the courage to humbly repent of our hardness of heart and to share in the healing work that Mary began through her humility.
Secondly, as we await the fulfillment of God’s promise we must remember that not everything that happens is God’s will. After all, the kingdom promised to David did not turn out as the people of Israel had expected: as an earthly realm it collapsed due to Israel’s infidelity, yet from this failure God made a spiritual Kingdom for all nations. This means that even when it looks as though events are not moving in the direction we want—like events throughout 2020—we should be at peace with the fact that God’s ways are not our ways (see Isa 55:8-9), and that he can make good come of life’s difficulties and tragedies.
Through the season of Advent we have been preparing for the coming of the Christ child who humbly took on our humanity so that we might one day take on his divinity as adopted sons and daughters of God. Following in the footsteps of Mary may we welcome him at his coming as we say: Jesus, Son of David and Son of Mary, come and save us!
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.