NOT TO US, LORD, NOT TO US, BUT TO YOU!
9th Day of Simbang Gabi / Misa de Gallo
December 24, 2009
Readings: 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a-16 / Lk 1:67-79
The power and position and authority of David were all getting a little bit into his head. Well-meaning definitely, he thought he ought to God a favor. Feeling sorry for the ark of the covenant that was reposed in a tent, while he was safely ensconced in a house of cedar, he thought of constructing a house for the Lord.
But Nathan the prophet, who initially thought it was a good idea and supported him, later pounced on this initial sign of hubris, after a dream, and put David right back in his place. No … it is not for you to build a house for God, for God Himself will build a house. God reminded David that it was Him who took him from pasture, who made him ruler, who entrusted to him a great responsibility. God made known to David who was calling the shots. And it was not David, powerful though he was then, who should decide on such an important cause.
But of course, the house that David referred to was a material one, and the house that God had in mind was something that David, in his short-sightedness, could not have known.
The Lord was leading his people – and his people’s leader, to something greater! The Lord was showing David something else and something more, something “that no eye has seen, nor ear heard.”
We all know what it is like. Just when we thought we had the brightest idea, the most brilliant solution to some persistent problem, all of a sudden, something happens that puts us right back in our lowly place. We are surrounded by people like that – politicians and leaders (including leaders in religious life) who think that everything done by their predecessor is less brilliant than their own, so they spend all their time trying to undo what others before them have done.
It is one sign, among many, of narcissism, a tendency to be so self-centered and so beholden to one’s own talents – real or imagined – that one is led to think less of the capabilities of others and think of themselves as better than most people. Twenge & Campbell (2009) refer to this as the “narcissism epidemic.”
King David had that narcissistic streak, the same narcissism that led him to betray his most trusted officer and to covet his wife Bathsheba.
We live in an age of entitlement. This probably explains the sudden rise in popularity of “extreme makeovers” through plastic surgery, the phenomenon behind the culture of twitting, Facebook, and MySpace that all capitalize in the me, mine, and myself – and the best that is about me. The “mining industry” of Imelda of yore, now pales in comparison to what the whole world is up to. Everyone now feels entitled to be a performer and an artist and a singer via You Tube and the motto seems to be, simply put: broadcast yourself!
Is there any wonder why half of marriages solemnized end up in divorce within the first five years? Is it any wonder why even young priests ordained quit within the first two years of ministry? Is it to be wondered at that there are now fake paparazzi that people can hire just to make one feel like a celebrity for a day?
David has that streak of narcissism. Let me build a house for the ark. Let me take care of it. But God, through Nathan, put him right back in his place.
“It was I who took you from the pasture and the care of the flock to be commander for my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance.”
So you think you want to solve my people’s problems?
I don’t know what’s with us as a people, but I just think we have been fooled by politicians and leaders once too often! We all pin our hopes on saviors and self-proclaimed messiahs. We suffered through a series of coup d’etats that ruined our economy and set us back a decade just because some narcissist thought that he had the solutions to the country’s problems! And I have bad news for you who are seated in the pews. By the rule of thirds, one third of your leaders in Church and elsewhere are narcissists. Haven’t you noticed? People with whom you can never win an argument against? People who act like they have a direct line to heaven? People who begin their sharings at Parish Council meetings with statements like “I prayed over this and the Lord has told me to tell you this …” People who you simply ought not cross or else they banish you forever from the face of the parish directory (or the face of the earth!).
We live in an age of entitlement. We rub shoulders with individuals who will work only if they are in the limelight. We live with individuals who will speak only if they had the monopoly of the microphone. And when they are no longer in the limelight, they simply do not cooperate.
One thing about the liturgy is our individualities are not supposed to shine vis-à-vis our nature as a covenanted people – as community. This is one practical reason why the priest celebrant does not wear street clothes, for the simple reason, that he has to leave behind his individuality as a person and act “in persona Christi.” He is supposed to be an alter Christus on the altar, not a pop music artist, not a performer, and not a political candidate. He acts in the person of Christ, when the liturgy is celebrated.
This whole liturgy today, with its readings, is an antidote to narcissism. Not I, not I, but God who works through me. No longer I, no … not I, but Christ who lives in me. “Forever will I sing the goodness of the Lord.” All this is what we mean to say when we gather to celebrate today.
This, too, is what Zechariah meant when he acclaimed: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free!”
Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory!