Archive for the ‘David’ Category

The Two (Old & New) Arks of God

December 17, 2015

Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark? The Ark that Indiana Jones and the Nazis were pursued in that entertaining film was the most precious object in the entire Old Testament. But what is lost on many is how that holy artifact is related to the most important woman in the New Testament and its New Covenant.

The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant was a box built in the days of Moses according to God’s instructions at Mount Sinai. It was made of wood overlaid with pure gold, inside and out. No man was allowed to touch God’s Holy Ark—lest they die—so it was designed to be carried about using a pair of poles. The Ark was the throne for God’s presence on earth. The wings of two, golden Cherubim angel statues atop the Ark’s lid served as his “mercy-seat.” The Ark itself contained within several interesting items from the time of the Exodus: the two stone tablets of the 10 Commandments, the wooden staff of Aaron (which miraculously blossomed to confirm his divinely-ordained priesthood), and a gold container holding some of the Manna from heaven which God provided to feed his people on their desert pilgrimage.

Ark

About 450 years after its construction, around 1000 BC, King David reigned over all of Israel. He tried to bring the Ark up to his royal city, Jerusalem, until one of the priests (who should have known better) touched the Ark and fell down dead. David exclaimed, “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” He arranged for it to be kept at the house of Obed-edom in the Judean countryside. The Ark remained there for three months and manifestly blessed the whole household. When it was reported to the king how richly Obed-edom was being graced, King David decided to try transporting the Ark into Jerusalem once more. David himself led that procession, dancing and leaping before the Lord with joyful abandon.

The Ark would eventually reside in the Jerusalem Temple built by David’s son, King Solomon. It is written that before that Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC, Jeremiah the Prophet took the Ark and hid it in a secret cave, saying, “No one must know about this place until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy.”Unlike in the 1981 film, the Lost Ark has never been found, but a new Ark of God did appear.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant because she bears Jesus Christ, God’s fullest presence on earth. By God’s design, the first Ark was made of wood and covered with gold; Mary is a human being full with grace. The former Ark carried the word of God in stone; Mary’s womb carries the Word become flesh. Aaron’s dead staff miraculously flowered; Mary’s virgin womb blossomed with a bud from the stump of Jesse. The Ark held Manna from heaven; Mary bore the true bread from heaven. Mary’s womb holds Jesus Christ, our Prophet, Priest, and King.

The Visitation by Albertinelli, 1503.As the Gospel of Luke tells us, after she was visited by St. Gabriel the Archangel at the Annunciation, “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” And Mary would bless them with her help and companionship, staying at their house in the Judean hill country about three months.

Like King David, St. Elizabeth questions and St. John the Baptist leaps for joy before the Ark of the Lord. St. Joseph, regarding the inviolable sanctity of his wife with reverent fear, never touched her virginity. Mary would also go on to literally serve as God’s throne, his mercy-seat; “On entering the house [the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother.”

In the Book of Revelation, St. John’s vision of heaven includes a sighting of the Lost Ark: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the Ark of his Covenant could be seen in the temple.” Then John beholds “in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” We soon discover that this  glorious woman is pregnant with “a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations….” This is the Christ, and she is his Holy Ark.

Now the Lord’s Ark is not meant to be worshiped. (Though among God’s most holy creations, an Ark of God is not divine.) Yet, as one draws nearer to the Holy Ark, one inevitably draws nearer to God’s presence. Just as the old Ark of the Covenant was of central (though secondary) importance in the Old Covenant, so God gives the Blessed Virgin Mary an essential role in his New Covenant. All who come to her are drawn nearer to her Son.

Imagine daring to enter the old Jewish Temple’s the Holy of Holies where the Ark of God was kept. What awe and reverence would you feel before the all-holy presence of God? Now consider drawing near to the even greater Ark, Mary the Mother of all Christians, who reaches out to each of us with love and takes away our fear. And now reflect upon the great privilege we have in approaching and even touching the Christmas Gift of God she bore, Jesus Christ himself. Mary is blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. But blessed are we who would believe in all that the Lord has revealed to us.

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The Blind & Lame — Monday, 3rd Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

January 27, 2014

Readings:  2nd Samuel 5:1-7, 10; Mark 3:22-30

The Jebusites of Jerusalem told King David, “You cannot enter here: the blind and the lame will drive you away!” Jesus, the Son of David, was warmly received by the blind and lame because he cured them. Instead, it was the intellectually blinded and emotionally lamed, such as the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, who rejected Jesus and crucified him outside the city.

The Lamb of God — 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

January 16, 2011

When John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him he declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Why does John say that? How is Jesus like a lamb? Under the Old Covenant, animal sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins.  The symbolism was that the animal, typically an unblemished lamb, was dying in place of the sinner who offered it. Jesus, like an obedient sheep that follows its master’s voice, does His Father’s will and takes our place in the sacrifice that truly forgives our sins. This is why Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

John the Baptist goes on to say, “He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” Indeed, Jesus existed before the universe itself. Through Him, all things were made, and all things that were made to point to Christ. For this reason, it is not so much that Jesus resembles the lambs of Old Covenant sacrifices. Instead, God established the ritual of sacrificing lambs for the forgiveness of sins in order to point to Christ.

Jesus is born in the age of the New Testament, but throughout the entire Old Testament the Holy Spirit has spoken through the prophets about Him. For example, our first reading from the book of Isaiah, written several centuries before Christ, is just one of hundreds and hundreds of passages pointing to Him. But, before we look at it again, a little background: Jacob was Abraham’s grandson. Jacob was renamed “Israel” by God and fathered twelve sons. From these twelve sons descended the twelve tribes of Israel. This is why the names “Jacob” and “Israel” can be interchangeable, and can refer to one person or many.

In Isaiah, the prophet writes, “The Lord said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory.” To whom is God speaking here? Who is the servant whom God formed in the womb; the prophet himself, God’s faithful people, or Jesus Christ? There is truth to each of these interpretations, but Jesus shines especially through. Isaiah continues:

“It is too little, the Lord says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus is the one who brings salvation and the resurrection not only to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but for all the nations on earth, bringing His light to Gentiles like you and I.  For another example, consider today’s psalm, written by King David 1,000 years before Christ. Hear these words again as coming from Jesus’ own lips:

Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”

“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”

I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O Lord, know.

I have waited, waited for the Lord,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.

I suspect that these words had a personal meaning to David when he composed them, and the fortieth psalm has been prayed in a personal way by God’s faithful people ever since, but these words apply especially to the person and life of Christ. After preaching God’s word before crowds of thousands in the time of His ministry and obediently coming to the cross at its end, after crying out for His Father to save Him and waiting three days in the tomb, the resurrection has put a new song in Jesus’ mouth, a new hymn of praise to our Father.

The point is this: the Old Testament is not a dead letter, or a merely historical book. The passages of the Old Testament meant something historically to the people who wrote them, but those men were not the only authors—the Holy Spirit was writing, too. The Spirit was writing for all generations of God’s faithful people, including you and I today. The Spirit was also revealing and prophetically pointing to the person and life of Jesus Christ.

St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” So when you hear the Old Testament proclaimed at Mass, and read the Bible on your own, look for the meaning it had in its historical context, look for the spiritual meaning it has for us today, and look for Jesus, because you can find Him there, and get to know Him better.

History Ryhmes — Solemnity of Christ the King—Year C

December 22, 2010

As Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Throughout the story of our salvation, we see history rhyming time and again.

In the beginning, when God created the first man He saw that it would be good for him to have a partner, a mate, a bride. So the Lord put the man into a deep sleep, removed his rib (perhaps because it was the bone closest to his heart,) and fashioned from it the first woman. When Adam awoke and saw, he happily exclaimed, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” In our first reading today, the people of Israel come to David and declare, “Here we are, your bone and your flesh. [Be our king!]” Here we see God’s people, Israel the bride, coming in joy to greet her husband, the king.

In days past, Saul had been Israel’s king, the one anointed by God’s prophet Samuel. But as time passed, King Saul became proud and loved himself to the contempt of God. After many transgressions, Samuel announced to Saul God’s judgment, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.” Saul rightly guessed that his replacement would be the young man, David, and he set about to have him killed. When David wisely fled for his life, Saul gathered a posse to hunt him down.

One night, David and his right-hand man, Abishai, snuck into the camp of Saul and his men. They came right up to where Saul laid, but the men “remained asleep, because the Lord had put them into a deep slumber.” Abishai begged in hushed tones, “Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not need a second thrust!” David replied, “the Lord forbid that I touch his anointed!” David would not thrusting a spear through the side of God’s anointed. Instead, David took the spear and water jug which lay at Saul’s head and went to a remote hilltop. From there, David cried out: “Why does my lord pursue his servant? What have I done? What evil do I plan? [I could have killed you!] Here is the king’s spear! Let an attendant come over to get it!” After that Saul acknowledged that he had betrayed David’s innocent blood and went away. Later, Saul committed suicide in a battle lost to the Philistines and God’s people came to David to ask him to be their king. David had refused to take the kingship by force, and God graciously bestowed the kingdom upon him.

About 1,000 years later, another Christ or Messiah came, the true Anointed One of God. Like David, Jesus also refused to slay his opponents and take His kingdom by force. This confused and disturbed many who believed in Him. Some speculate that Judas betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Jewish leaders so that Jesus, His back pinned to the wall, would be forced to show his power. When Judas realized that he had betrayed innocent blood he did not seek out Jesus’ forgiveness, but despaired and killed himself.

As Jesus hung on His cross, making it the new tree of life, He was the New Adam, naked without shame. Jesus was surrounded there by all sorts of people. Some of them where disciples who had believed in Him, but they stood there fearful of their allegiance becoming known. Scribes, Pharisees, and religious rulers stood there who should have acknowledged Jesus as their Christ, but they disregarded His words. The Roman soldiers there were doing their duty, and perhaps didn’t feel much about Jesus one way or the other. However, one person there on Calvary was unafraid to speak out in truth and faith. He was a condemned man crucified beside Jesus. This man said, “We have been condemned justly… but this man has done nothing criminal. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” We call this man “the good thief,” and indeed he was, for in the last hours of his life he managed to steal Heaven.

What would we have done if we had been there? What sort of witness would we have given? It is impossible for us to go back to that time—history doesn’t repeat itself, yet our present does rhyme with the past. A senior at Columbus recently told me that he always tries to get other students to come to Mr. Kitzhaber’s youth events because, in his words, “they’re really fun!” But most students decline, replying “that’s a Jesus thing.” Are we ashamed or afraid to be identified as Christ’s followers? How many people today are like the scribes and Pharisees of the past by ignoring Christ teachings as they are taught through his bride, the Church? And how many Catholics fulfill their duty, by saying their prayers and going to Mass, but do it without much joy? What would we make of a bride who appeared indifferent and bored with her groom on their wedding day?

History doesn’t repeat itself, but salvation history does rhyme. In our day, will we resemble the timid disciples, Jesus’ religious opponents, the indifferent guards, or the faithful and courageous, good thief? Without fear, let acknowledge Jesus as our God. With obedience, let us heed the words our King speaks to us through His Church. With joy, let us approach Christ as our Bridegroom, like a bride on her wedding day.

Absalom and Satan — Monday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

February 1, 2010

Absalom was one of David’s very own, but Absalom would betray him. Absalom’s name means “Father of Peace,” but he far closer resembles the “Father of Lies.”

In almost our earliest story about him, Absalom arranged his brother’s murder. He’s a murderer from the beginning.

We read that Absalom, like Satan, had a radiant beauty. “In all Israel there was not a man who could so be praised for his beauty as Absalom, who was without blemish from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”

Like the devil, Absalom’s glory was equaled by his vanity. At the end of every year, when his long hair grew too heavy, he would have it shaved and weighed it according to the royal standard.

Absalom was willing do havoc to attract another’s attention, as when he set fire to the field of a person ignoring him.

Like the serpent, Absalom was cunning and he would readily lie to serve his purposes. Absalom would sit at the city gates, listen to peoples’ (legal) grievances, and assure each one that they were right and entitled. Then he would manipulatively muse on how much better their lives would be if only he had the power.

Finally, Absalom sought to overthrow and kill his king. Absalom’s best advisor would counsel him, ‘Please let me choose twelve thousand men, and be off in pursuit of David tonight. When all the people with him flee, I shall strike down the king alone. It is the death of only one man you are seeking; then all the people will be at peace.’ This plan was agreeable to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.

In our first reading we see David weeping on the Mount of Olives as he flees from Absalom. 1,000 years later, a descendant of David would be troubled in spirit on that same hill overlooking Jerusalem. Unlike David, Jesus did not flee His pursuers and was dead within a day. Jesus and the Sanhedrin agreed on this: it was better that one man should die, so that the whole nation may not perish.

David would flee and survive, but Absalom would die, thrust through with spears, hanging from a tree, entangled by his long, glorious hair.  But after this comes an episode which is a window into God’s incredible love for us. When news of the villainous betrayer’s death reaches King David, he mourns inconsolably at the loss of his beloved.

Likewise, and amazingly, despite Satan’s great and intractable wickedness; his betrayals, violence, and lies; the Lord still loves him. As the Book of Wisdom affirms, “[Lord,] you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?

There is a great encouragement in this for each one of us. If the Lord loves Satan, like David loved Absalom, then how could we ever doubt that the Lord will always love us, or imagine that He rejects us whenever we turn to Him?

Man’s Mission — Friday, 3rd Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

January 29, 2010

In the beginning, the Lord God settled the man in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. Then the Lord made the man a partner suitable for himself. Each day had seen God make greater and greater creations and on this last day, God makes His final, ultimate creation: woman.

The man beholds her with joy. He authors her name, which points to his authority, yet this authority is not meant for dominance but service, like the authority exercised by Christ. The man is meant to work to nuture and guard the garden and to nurture and guard his wife.

Before the Fall, all work was free from toil. Work carried with it no pains, no exhaustion, no boredom or strain—only feelings of satisfaction, creative accomplishment, and pleasure like those which we still sometimes enjoy from doing a job well done.

The man was placed in the garden with an important job to do, to nurture and protect, but he neglected his duty, and this led to the Fall. For where was he when the cunning serpent was out of place and out of line enticing his wife towards death? Maybe he was off sleeping on the job, taking an afternoon nap somewhere, like David in the first reading:

‘At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign, David, however, remained in Jerusalem. One evening David rose from his siesta and strolled about on the roof of the palace (for he had nothing else to do) and from the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.’

David forgets about his kingly work and duty, to fight the good fight, and from this comes his fall. He exploits the power of his authority and sins against a woman he should to honor and defend.

Our lives are meant to more than just our work, but faithfulness to some form of work before God is meant to be a part of our lives. Our work helps us to be good and to do good for others. Maybe you’re retired now, but if you’re still here on earth then the Lord must still have some important work for you.

What work has the Lord entrusted to you? Be as faithful to it as you ought so that Christ, the new Adam, may grow His virtues in you and harvest good works in you.

August 14 – Vigil of the Assumption of Mary

August 17, 2009

When I was younger, I used to wonder why Mary was such a big deal. It wasn’t that I was against her or anything. I prayed Hail Mary’s to her, and I wasn’t out to deny anything our Church said about her. I just didn’t understand why we, as Catholics, honored her so much.

Some people say that Mary is no big deal, that she’s just another Christian.  They might point to today’s Gospel as evidence, where a woman from the crowd calls out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed.”  And Jesus replies, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” “So you see,” they would say, “it’s nothing special to be the mother of Jesus.” But in this Gospel Jesus is not denying Mary’s greatness, He is rather affirming it.

If Mary had merely been the biological mother of Jesus, delivering Him, and nursing Him, she might have been just another Christian. But Mary is most blessed among the disciples of Christ, of which she is the first, because she heard the word of God and observed it. She heard the word of God from the angel Gabriel and answered,

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”

The overwhelming evidence for Mary’s exceptional glory, and her unique loveliness, is to be found throughout the Bible. The two Testaments, the Old, together with the New, show us why Mary is worthy of our great admiration and deserving of our special affection.

In the first reading we heard of the ark, the ark of the covenant, which you may remember seeing in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The ark was a wooden box, plated with gold inside and out, with two gold statues of winged angels on its lid.  This box, the ark, was carried about using two long polls, since men would be struck down if they touched the holy ark. The ark bore the presence of the Lord, it was His throne amidst His people.

The Lord had told Moses, who constructed the ark, according to the Lord’s precise specifications, to have some interesting things placed inside of it.  First, the wooden staff of Aaron, which had miraculously grown shoots and blossoms. Second, the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments which were written by God’s own hand. And third, an urn full of manna, the food which the Lord had given his people to eat during the Exodus.

That was the ark of the Old Testament.
Mary is the ark of the New Testament.

As the ark was a box of wood, plated with precious gold, inside and out, so Mary was a human being, surrounded and filled with divine grace. Like the dead wood of Aaron’s staff, which (naturally speaking) should not have borne life, the Virgin Mary miraculously blossomed life within her. Unlike the written word of God in stone, Mary carried within her the eternal Word of God in flesh. Mary borne within herself the true bread from heaven, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the first reading we heard how David led the ark of God’s presence into Jerusalem.  The ark’s coming to Jerusalem is also commemorated in the psalm we heard.  Jerusalem is sometimes poetically referred to as Zion, since Mt. Zion was the place of the temple in Jerusalem.

Just as the Lord’s presence came into Zion, the presence of the Lord came to dwell in Mary. Nine times out of ten, whatever Scripture says of Zion or Jerusalem, also goes for Mary. Mary is Jerusalem.  She is Zion.

“For the Lord has chosen Zion;”
says the Psalm
He prefers her for his dwelling.
Zion is my resting place forever;
In her will I dwell, for I prefer her.”

And, nine times out of ten, whatever can be said of Mary, also applies to Christ’s Church. Mary is the icon of the Church.

So, as you can see, Mary is a big deal. And none of us is more admirable, praiseworthy, and sweetly loveable than her.

‘Therefore her heart is glad and her soul rejoices,
her body, too, abides in confidence;
because God did not abandon her soul to the netherworld,
nor would He suffer His faithful one to undergo corruption.’

He assumed His beloved into heaven. Thanks be to God, who gave Mary this victory over death, through her Lord and ours, Jesus Christ.