A4B – 20 Dec 2020
Taking human flesh
Message by: Fr Richard M Healey
MP3 media (8am Mass, Thirroul)
MP3 media (5.30pm Mass, Bulli)
When Paul wanted to convey his most developed and longest letter to the half-dozen or so house churches in the city of Rome, he needed to find someone who understood exactly what he wanted to say, who perhaps was able to memorise the letter word-for-word and who knew how to interpret the letter and perform its contents to draw out his intended meaning, as well as answer the many questions that might arise – clearly a key task. It seems he had no hesitation in his choice when he chose Phoebe for this task. This woman is called a deacon & she was one of Paul’s benefactors and trusted friends & collaborators. She bears a pagan name which honours the god Titan and brings in her person the embodiment of his message that God was establishing a new peace through Jesus that was beyond anything that the “Pax Romana” could achieve.
All theology happens within a context. Scot McKnight suggests in Reading Romans Backwards that the way to read the first half of Romans (chapters 1-8) we need to take account of the final section of the letter (chapters 12-16) first. Today we hear from the very ending of this letter, where Paul prays his final doxology over the community. It is easy to get Paul wrong, just as it is easy to get the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels wrong if we are not paying attention. People must always be at the centre.
Our first reading today (from 2 Samuel 7) features King David settled into his own new house and he desires to build a temple. Just as 1 Samuel 8 is somewhat ambivalent about whether God’s original plan for the people of Israel was to have a king, so also here it seems that God is in no need of a glorious temple to have a place to dwell on earth. The text is playing on Hebrew word ‘bayit‘ which can mean house, dwelling, palace, temple or dynasty. David wants to build a bayit for God, but God declares that he will build a bayit for David.
It seems that God’s preference is to dwell in and among people. He is delighted whenever a human responds to allow this indwelling to come to fruition – like we see in the Gospel today with Mary allowing the shekinah/glory of God’s mantle to cover her and to allow God to dwell among us in the person of Jesus.
Advent 4, Year B. 2 Samuel 7:1-16; Psalm 89:2-5, 27-29; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38