Throughout "Field of Dreams," the
main character tries to follow the command of the voice he hears telling
him, "If you build it, he will come."
He eventually figures out that the
"it" is a ball diamond in the middle of an Iowa cornfield; he
presumes the "he" is his deceased father's hero from his youth,
Shoeless Joe Jackson. Though he succeeds in building the diamond and
bringing Jackson and some of his fellow players back from the dead, only at
the end of the movie do we [and he] discover that the "he" is
actually his father.
Scripture students probably figured out that
the movie's end wouldn't be so simple. They frequently deal with
parallel scenarios in our sacred texts.
In Sunday's first reading, for instance,
David is obsessed with building a "house" for Yahweh (2 Sam 7:
1-5, 8-11, 16). He initially gets the okay for the project from the prophet
Nathan. But, that night, Yahweh appears to the prophet and redirects David's
God will see to it that a house will be built,
but it won't be Yahweh's; it will be David's. The next morning, Nathan
conveys God's plan to the king: "He will establish a house for you.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever...,your throne shall stand
We find something similar in the Gospel (Lk 1:
26-38). Of course, we're so accustomed to Mary's participation in Jesus'
conception and birth that we can't imagine His being in our midst without
her. We forget that the historical Mary of Nazareth wasn't looking in the
same direction as we.
Though she no doubt anticipated and prayed for
Yahweh's saving of her people, she never gave herself a role in that
salvation. Like most of us, she presumed she'd simply be a witness to the
event, recognizing and thanking God when it finally arrived. She never
dreamed she'd be an actual participant in something so tremendous.
Imagine how her anticipation of God's
salvation was instantly redirected by Gabriel's an-nouncement: "You
shall conceive and bear a son, and give Him the name Jesus. Great will be
His dignity, and He will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will
give Him the throne of David, His father. He will rule over the house of
Jacob forever, and His reign will be without end."
No wonder Mary's first question is, "How
can this be?" She obviously had other plans.
Yet, as we hear in the second reading, such
"redirection" didn't stop with Mary (Rom 16: 25-27). Immediately
after Jesus' death and resurrection, His followers presumed He came only
for the Chosen People. He was Jewish, He had preached a reform for Jews, all
His disciples were Jews. Any Gentile interested in implementing His message
and imitating His lifestyle had first to convert to Judaism.
It took a generation before some Christians
began to understand that non-Jews were as welcome to share in the faith of
Jesus as Jews were.
One of those liberal, insightful Christians,
Paul of Tarsus, often reflected on that change of plans. His experience of
evangelizing Gentiles forced him to reinterpret both his preconceived
notions and the Scripture texts which supported them. As he eventually
discovered, God's plan of salvation wasn't as clear as he had imagined.
He informs the Christian community in Rome that
the Gospel he proclaims "reveals a mystery hidden for many ages but now
manifested through the writings of the prophets, and at the command of the
eternal God, made known to all the Gentiles." How could a dedicated Jew
such as Paul eventually find his destiny in announcing God's salvation to
non-Jews? It's one of the most dramatic turn-abouts in history.
Sunday's three readings remind us not to
become too comfortable in our faith. Our biblical authors warn us not to
predict the end of the movie before the credits roll.