Scripture: Lectionary 178. Dec.2, first Monday in Advent. Isaiah 4:2-6. Psalm 122:1-9. Matthew 8:5-11.
Visiting Israel (the Holy Land) and seeing the excavations of the holy places mentioned in both Testaments may be likened to a fifth gospel. Many pilgrims upon returning from visiting the land of Abraham and Jesus say they understand the Gospels much better; they come alive for them. We know that Luke had more of a theological perspective upon places mentioned in his Gospel; his geography is said to confirm his theology about Jesus and the different locations where Jesus preached, taught, and healed.
Perhaps, from Genesis we learn the importance of how good everything was that God created in the universe and on planet Earth. Everything is described as being TOV M’OD or very good. From Exodus we learn that Moses discovered holy ground upon seeing the burning bush and the revelation of God to him in a most personal and awe inspiring manner.
We, too, are often on sacred ground when we think about it. Our only striving for holiness makes the places where we walk, trod, or hike sacred places. Then our shrines, chapels, homes and churches are sacred not only for Christians but for others who have their own places to pray and contemplate. We are encouraged by today’s readings to look upon all these places as sacred.
In our selection from Isaiah in chapter four we have a messianic atmosphere founded upon the Exodus miracle and the good things God gives to his people especially the Temple and Mount Zion or Jerusalem.
In the Gospel for today we see Jesus moving toward Capernaum (“pleasant village”) at the call of a Roman centurion to heal his servant. Jesus will heal him because of the servant’s trust and humility. He pleads for a servant and beseeches the Lord. His humility leads him to say, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou should enter under my roof.” These words are so familiar to us just before Communion where we recite them as a community of believers. Jesus does not enter the centurion’s domicile because he was already there just as the faith and humility were there before his servant was healed.
The Psalm is particularly appropriate for Advent for it focuses on peace and friendship. “Because of my relatives and friends, I will say, “Peace be with you!” I rejoiced when I heard them say let us go to the house of the Lord.”
The song is about the sacred city of Jerusalem and the beautiful Temple considered one of the wonders of the world at that time. The joy of a pilgrim breaks forth in every line of this poem. The author is ecstatic in his joy about moving up the stairs to the Temple. He realizes the religious and sacred character of the city called Zion (Jerusalem).
Praying and reflecting on this Psalm made me think of the importance of our dialogue with the Jewish people and how important it is for bringing peace to those participating. I had received a framed picture of the last lines of this psalm from the dialogue group and now have it above my desk at home. It has inside its golden frame a portion of a fresco from a synagogue at the top and another from a church at the bottom with the following words inscribed in the middle first in Hebrew and then in Latin: “For the sake of these may brothers and friends, I shall say peace (Shalom) be within you.” (Psalm 122:8).
This is indeed a great psalm for Advent reflection and prayer. We are holy people who are in many holy places. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.