ISRAEL SHALL DWELL IN SECURITY
3rd Day of Simbang Gabi(C)/
Misa de Gallo / Dawn Masses
December 18, 2009
Readings: Jer 23: 5-8 / Mt 1:18-25
In keeping with the upbeat mood of the days immediately preceding Christmas, (and Simbang Gabi mood in the Philippines – and elsewhere!) the readings today again wax hopeful. They are full of promises of things to come. Such promises all revolved around the figure of the coming Messiah, couched in symbols that initially were vague, but clear enough for us in retrospect, as we navigate through the account that we now call salvation history.
The promised One – what Isaiah earlier this week referred to as the “Just One” – was to come from the house of Judah. He is called by Jeremiah today as “a righteous shoot” who “will reign and govern wisely,” who will “do what is right and just.” The end result, according to Jeremiah would be that “Judah shall be saved” and “Israel shall dwell in security.”
The images may have faded a little bit for our postmodern ears and sensibilities, but the promise and the pledge remain valid for all time. The hope that engendered such images in the “prophetic imagination” of Isaiah and Jeremiah is what lives on till now, enriched and made to grow deeper by the Liturgy that we celebrate together here and now.
This is essentially what brings us together so early at dawn for nine days preceding the big day of Christmas. We gather together in Liturgy because, being a people of the memorial, we choose to remember, and to celebrate, what we believe.
Hope, in this regard then, has bearings on history. Hope is not wishful thinking, precisely because what Isaiah and Jeremiah, albeit initially vaguely foretold ages ago, came true, from the very account of salvation history that extended to the four canonical gospel accounts of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.
But let us be clear about what we mean by history. The common misconception about civil history is that it is a study of things past. In this understanding, we look back in time. We talk about what transpired, what happened, what took place. But salvation history is not only about what took place. Salvation history is theology of history. It is all about religious meaning of what transpires, still transpires, and will yet transpire. It is a running account of a God who came in flesh, a God who comes in grace, and a God who will come in glory at the end of time.
Civil history is about limited time with a beginning and end. The Greeks call it “chronos” or measurable time. But salvation history has to do with God’s time, God’s “kairos” that is never measured, for it is never quantitative, but qualitative time. For God has revealed Himself in Christ to be the “alpha and the omega,” the beginning and the end.
This is the history that we remember and celebrate. Civil history is never celebrated. It is simply recalled to mind. Thus, we memorize dates and events and place them in timelines and epochs. But salvation history is something that happens up till now. This is why, in the Catholic liturgy, we do, not so much a recollection, as “do a memorial.” “Do this in memory of me,” sums it all up for us. In Church, we don’t build monuments to call to mind people and events. In Church, we celebrate and re-enact and make present what we remember, not so much with the mind, as with the heart.
What then, are we to make of today’s readings?
Let’s start with ourselves. You are all here singing and praying with me, and with the whole believing community. What have you come here for in essence? Have you come here for a date, to be with friends, to have a nice quiet time, minus the hassles that you usually find at malls and crowded shopping centers? Have you come here to simply and plainly “assemble?” Or have you come here also to “listen” as Jacob told his large brood as we read yesterday?
Yes … we make history as we take part in this memorial with heart, mind, body, and soul. When we do, we become Isaiah and Jeremiah come in flesh to contribute to this “prophetic imagination” that is at one and the same time, backward looking, forward looking, and forward moving. We become one with the Church and her struggle to help make the dream of justice and security in our land a reality for all.
We all have dreams of security and peace in the land. I’ve got good news for you. This has been, and still is, God’s dream for us, like it was for Isaiah and Jeremiah.
But go check salvation history again. Go read the prophets whole and entire once again. And you will see that their “prophetic energizing” went hand in hand with “prophetic criticizing.” And you all know what happened to the great prophets. They paid the highest price for their prophetic criticizing. They walked their talk.
And, boy, what a walk it had been for them!
My dear friends … we are not fossils that historians look back to, even as Isaiah and Jeremiah, and John the Baptist and the apostles are not fossils. They are living history. We all make or break history! Isaiah told it loud and clear: “Israel shall dwell in security.” “Justice shall flourish in his time and fullness of peace forever.” Yes … but for this to happen, there had to be a Joseph who took courage and took to heart the message of the angel: “Do not be afraid Joseph to take Mary into your home.” There had to be an Isaiah and a Jeremiah who both had close brushes with the powers that be at their time, and the people who were offended by what they said. But they went right on with their dream, for they were God’s dream to start with.
Today, the third day of our novena, you are making history – or breaking it – as the case maybe. All of us are part of this ongoing salvation history, and ours is the power to choose, the power to decide – to follow or not the paths that lead to peace, or violence.
Those behind the grisly massacre last November 23 have chosen. We are called to choose also. And on our choice shall depend the fullness of what Isaiah and Jeremiah promised: “Israel shall dwell in security.”