House of Gold
Fourth Sunday of Advent. Fr Leon Pereira urges us to accept Our Lady as our Mother, in accordance with Christ’s command.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on ‘What Would Jesus Do’, the catchphrase of our times. In contrast, Catholicism is not about what we can do for God; it is about what Jesus does for us. It is not about wondering ‘What Would Jesus Do’ in this or that situation. Catholicism is the affirmation of what Jesus did do: he founded the Catholic Church, he sent her the Holy Spirit, he established her on Peter and the apostles, he promised that the Gates of Hell would never prevail against her.
The dream for (pre-)apostolic ‘purity and simplicity’ – one which differs radically from the nature of the Catholic Church – is a vain and fond illusion. Instead, the reality we inherit – of bishops, priests, and deacons, the seven sacraments, the teaching authority of the Church – are all what Jesus left us. If we truly want what Jesus wants of us, we become members of his body on his terms, not ours. It is not something we do for God, but something he does for us.
It is this truth we sing from the psalms, ‘Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it’ (Psalm 126).
Yet King David, psalmist par excellence, provoked God by conducting a census, the implication being that David – not God – was in charge, and later sought to build God a temple. The Lord, through the prophet Nathan, told David, ‘Would you build me a house to dwell in? … the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house’ (2 Samuel 7.4, 11).
David wanted to build God a house, and was told he should not. David is the one who must rely on God, not the other way around. In the Gospel, Mary is asked by God to become the Mother of Jesus. And she replies that she is God’s handmaid, that without him she would be nothing. Through her God does build himself a house. In fact, God fulfils his promise to David in Mary.
Mary knows she cannot do anything without God’s grace. The angel greets her ‘Hail, full of grace’, but this grace is something she has received freely and continued freely to receive. Through her God builds himself a house: the Body of Christ. Jesus and his followers who are part of his body, a kingdom which will never end, the Catholic Church perfected in glory.
Our Lord begins his ministry with this challenge: ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days’. But the temple he spoke of was his body (cf. John 2.19, 21). The other temple, the one David proposed to build and his son Solomon completed (and was rebuilt later by others) became theologically redundant. Only the house built by God, the Body of Christ, is to endure.
David sought to exalt his kingship by conducting a census, and failed. Our Lady, bearing the King of kings in utero, submits herself humbly to a census, trusting that God would fulfil his promises in his way, in his time. For this we call her the Ark of the New Covenant, and indeed, the ‘House of Gold’. She is God’s true Temple because she did things God’s way, and not her own. And she tells those who have ears to hear, ‘Do whatever he tells you’ (John 2.5).
When considering what Jesus actually did do, we should not neglect the fact that He gave Mary to us to be our mother (John 19.27). She, the Mother of the Messiah (cf. Rev 12.5), is revealed also to be the mother of those ‘who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ’ (Rev 12.17). If what matters is what Jesus actually did, then receiving his mother as our own must rank high in our priorities, no matter our preferences. In her company, we watch and pray for the Lord to come, and that his will be done. Amen.