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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Homily 12-23-2012 Fear of the God who Comes So Close

 Are you afraid of God? Are you afraid of His presence? How close will you let God get to you? How much of your life, of your heart, will you share with God?
Do you know how King David answered these questions? David feared God with holy reverence, but was never afraid of Him coming too close. David, after he took his throne and established peace, actually went out to bring God to Jerusalem. David travelled to the hill-country of Judah, for the Ark of the Covenant, the concrete sign of God's presence with His people, containing the Ten Commandments, some manna, and the staff of Aaron, which dwelt in a tent and was with the Hebrews those 40 years throughout the desert and led them into the Promised Land. This one and only Ark David ceremonially brought into the new capital city, Jerusalem, as a sign of God's blessing and approval of David. No he wasn't afraid at all; rather, David lets God come as close as possible, and he rejoices to the point of dancing before the Lord.
Mary wasn't afraid of God either, though she also showed a great reverence, what we call “fear of the Lord,” or a respect for who God is, and it shows itself in a submissive posture to God's revelation, as well as a desire to hear God. Mary shows these qualities perfectly when God comes close to her, as she also shows her extreme courage in accepting a dangerous proposal along with making the journey (presumably alone) across the wilderness to see Elizabeth.
Micah tells us that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem, the city where David grew up as a shepherd boy before God made him a king. This small town of Judah is also near where Mary comes to find her cousin Elizabeth. And so God Himself comes close to Elizabeth, “in the midst” or in the “womb” (same Hebrew word) of Mary, who has now become the true Ark of the Covenant, bearing within her the Word of God which brings to fulfillment the Ten Commandments and the Bread of Life which fulfills the manna of the desert. Does Elizabeth cower in fear? No. When the ark is brought to her, Elizabeth rejoices; even John the Baptist rejoices, dancing before the Lord Jesus. They are not afraid. Why should they be? They know God to be a merciful, loving Lord who has delivered them from bondage, who has showered them with blessings. They know the Messiah will make true the promises of old, summarized in CCC 64, which says Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts. The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations. Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope.
Mary and Elizabeth bear this hope. Mary, as the Ark of the Covenant, bears it quite literally in her midst, in her womb.
Are you afraid of God coming too close? King David, Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist were not. They bore in their hearts a fear of the Lord, but were not filled with any terror at his coming so close. The fear of the Lord, one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, gave them a reverence for God, a respect for who He is and for His words, a desire to find His Will and carry it out.
Whether God coming too close scares you or not, He is upon you. Christmas is two days away, and God visits you. Here in this Mass, God visits you. Mary is also a symbol of the Church, and here in the womb of the Church, here in your midst, comes the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. Approach Him with a Holy fear, let Him come closer than you ever have before, and experience the joy and peace that King David hoped for, that Elizabeth and John the Baptist saw, that Mary knew every moment after Gabriel's words. Come Lord Jesus!

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