The reflection below was written by Donna Grimes for our Advent-Christmas 2005 reflection booklet, Tell Them about the Times When Jesus Came: Reflections for Advent 2005. Donna is the Assistant Director for African American Affairs in the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She is a former member of the Pax Christi USA National Council.
reflection for the FOURTH sunday of advent, DECEMBER 20, 2020
by Donna Grimes
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of God;
let it be with me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38a)
In today’s reading from 2 Samuel, the exchange between God and King David through the prophet Nathan gave me a jolt of reality. “When King David was settled in his palace, and God had given him rest from all his enemies on every side,” David reflected, “Here I am living in a house of cedar while the Ark of God dwells in a tent!” (2 Sam 7:1-2)
First, God posed the question, “Should you build me a house to dwell in?” (2 Sam 7:5b). Next, God Almighty, Creator of the Universe, wrapped it up with a few poignant examples, attached a big new perspective, and handed the shepherd-king an amplified response. Generations later, God reveals the Blessed Mother as the true Ark of God. She has been called the Ark of the Covenant.
We who are settled in our own palaces in this land of luxury can learn a lot about humility in these passages. On the personal and individual level, David’s question exposes a veneer of deference to God. Perhaps, like David, we may be profoundly impressed with ourselves at this point in our lives. We may move about in the world pleased with our accomplishments, appreciative of certain professional and material achievements, even privately celebrating our spiritual growth. In the glow of self-satisfaction perhaps our reverence for the source of those blessings dims. Maybe the value we place on those gifts is mis-calibrated.
Likewise, as we extend ourselves to others, it may be hard to resist the habit of subtly and not so subtly patting ourselves on the back for our good deeds. Perhaps we view our generosity to the poor and less fortunate as virtuous because of our God-given bounty, enlightenment, or Christian duty.
Like David, must we remain in the caretaker role? Or are we willing to see the world as Mary did, with the eyes and heart of a poor, unmarried woman, a persona non-gratis in her world? King David looked with favor upon his kingdom below and God was displeased. Mary looked to the kin-dom of God above and received favor for eternity.
In our compassionate outreach to individuals, communities, churches, and good-will organizations, how can we see assets over liabilities, and work with rather than for our brothers and sisters?
In prayer, let us ask the Holy Spirit to recalibrate our desire to serve others
so that it may be authentic and pleasing to God.
Find more reflections and resources on our Advent 2020 webpage.