Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Advent B: "Should you build me a house to dwell in?": God Himself builds His house the Church through the Body and Blood of Christ

This morning I had the pleasure of talking with some of our young people who came to church to practice for the Christmas pageant they will perform at 5 p.m. here next Saturday, Christmas Eve, between our Christmas vigil Masses scheduled for 4 and 5:30 pm.

I took a moment to lead them in making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament prior to the pageant practice and saying a prayer together with them, which is a longstanding custom handed down in our Catholic Faith for those who happen by a church and are able to enter and pray.

The children and I also practiced "genuflecting", translated from the Latin into English as "bowing the knee". I asked them if they had heard of "Tebowing", made famous by football player Tim Tebow who "takes a knee" frequently during games, becoming famous for his unapologetic demonstrations of Christian faith on and off the field. I suspect that Tim does not share our Catholic Faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ under the signs of bread and wine in the Eucharist but he already understands very well how to reverence and worship God, Faith in whom he already shares in great part with us. Although our children were too young to know much about football, or "Tebowing", they are very ready to learn about God and the most marvelous gift which enables him to dwell, or "pitch his tent", among us.

In the Old Testament reading we hear about man's need for a place on earth that is to be designated for God, a place where His people might go to do just what the children and I were able to do this morning: to show together as His people the love proper to God which we call "worship" or "adoration", those attitudes reserved for God as above and holier than everything he has created. King David believes that God should have something far greater than even his own royal palace in which to dwell:

"Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!"

God's tent, or "tabernacle" was his dwelling among the chosen people and a sign of his holiness. Because of his belief in God's holiness, however, King David felt that God should have a new and better house, something more permanent and grand as befitting a people now beginning to settle down in the Promised Land and no longer as much in need of the original "mobile home" of the tent.

As wonderful as was King David's instinct to honor God with a worthy dwelling, the prophet Nathan indicated that God Himself had other plans: "Should you build me a house to dwell in?" God revealed that it must be Himself who will build the house if it is to be worthy of his divinity, of his Godliness.

That dwelling, in fact, was not only built by God, that dwelling was and is God: the Lord Jesus Christ truly born into this world as a baby 2,000 years ago. Today, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, we look expectantly to our forthcoming celebration of God's dwelling built on earth, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, whose anniversary of birth we will joyfully celebrate as His Body the Church at Christmas.

Here in our "tent", or tabernacle on God's altar, we have present with us the very One who does the work of building us up into His Body the Church on earth. Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, is the house that God built because in this most blessed Sacrament is really, truly and substantially present the selfsame God-man who was truly born of Mary. And it is Jesus Christ by His divine power present under the signs of bread and wine who "makes" the universal Church which is the true dwelling of God on earth.

" the Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body - the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call: 'The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread:'

"If you are the body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive. To that which you are you respond 'Amen' ('yes, it is true!') and by responding to it you assent to it. For you hear the words, 'the Body of Christ' and respond 'Amen.' Be then a member of the Body of Christ that your Amen may be true." (CCC 1396)
The tabernacle on the altar, usually made of metal or other worthy and durable material, is the "tent" of our own day, the dwelling which God pitches among us here and now within the house of the church building, and a suitable place to reverence and worship Jesus Christ truly present.

"The tabernacle was first intended for the reservation of the Eucharist in a worthy place so that it could be brought to the sick and those absent outside of Mass. As faith in the real presence of Christ in his Eucharist deepened, the Church became conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord present under the Eucharistic species. It is for this reason that the tabernacle should be located in an especially worthy place in the church and should be constructed in such a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament." (CCC 1379)

This morning, when I made a visit with the children to the tabernacle we opened the door. They opened their mouths in wonder to make sounds of surprise as they saw God dwelling within. "Should you build me a house to dwell in?" No, we cannot build the house, only if God builds the house will it survive the reasons for despair and hopelessness which sometimes seem to abound in this world.

"Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain."

When we gather at the crib in our celebration of Christmas we will see represented once again the very first "tabernacle", or tent of the Lord: the Blessed Virgin Mary who carried the incarnate God our Lord Jesus Christ for nine months in her womb. We will see her, her work done, happily adoring the infant Lord Jesus. And we will rejoice and adore with her, because in the gift of Himself truly present in every Eucharist it is the Lord who comes again, as He did that first Christmas, to build our "house" and guard our "city" through the gift of the forgiveness of our sins and the grace of eternal life.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.


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