December 18, 2023 at 3:02 p.m.

The promises of the Lord last forever!

Sunday's readings are a sweeping tour-de-force of salvation history and God’s faithfulness throughout the story
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.

By Sister Linda Neil, CSJ | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

This Sunday, we pause before diving into the Christmas Season on Monday. This is truly a pregnant pause, filled with anticipation. The readings are a sweeping tour-de-force of salvation history and God’s faithfulness throughout the story. 

“The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you.” — 2 Samuel 7:11

In the reading from second Samuel, we find David deciding to build a temple for the Lord. He is very concerned that he lives in a great palace, while the “Ark of God” (the Ark of the Covenant) is still housed in the meeting tent as it was throughout the journey from the desert to the Promised Land. Nathan, the prophet, agrees with David that he should build the temple.

Nathan receives a different message from God. God turns the tables on David and insists that the building of the “house” is God’s doing, not David’s. The Holy One reviews David’s story and how God has been faithful in all of David’s many hardships. This steadfast love will continue into the future for all the people. God forges the “Davidic Covenant” promising that David’s “house … will endure forever” and his “throne shall stand firm forever.” God does not put conditions on the covenant, as is the usual practice, but its foundation is the covenant made with Abraham and renewed with Moses. God has always been true to the covenant, even when the people have not. The Holy One has shown constant attention and presence always journeying with the people. This promise of faithfulness is firm and forever. 

This forever quality to the covenant is celebrated in Psalm 89 which proclaims that the promises of the Lord are forever, through all generations. God swears this faithfulness to David and will be his Father, Rock and Savior. The history of the people attests to God’s constant devotion — even through the ups and downs, the joys and horrible tragedies that they have suffered.

This story of faithful love is continued in the Gospel. Mary by her yes becomes the new Ark of God, the Ark of the Covenant. As the Ark accompanied the people in hard times, and in celebration and reminded them of God’s presence and care, Mary would bring forth the Savior, the Emmanuel who would always be with the people in the intimacy of the Indwelling presence shared by each believer. As the cloud of the presence overshadowed the meeting tent and the Ark, so the Holy Spirit, the power of the Most High, will overshadow her and the son to be born will be the Son of God. 

The early church fathers found this type of foreshadowing in the First Testament and saw in them the continuity of the story of God’s covenant love. Now, in the fullness of time, the Holy One has gathered all the promises, all the journeying, all the mercy and loving-kindness of the story to bring forth the great king and the heir to the house of David, Jesus, the Christ.

This is why we return to the story at every Eucharist. The story of our salvation must be told and remembered. God’s promises are not past history, they are alive and dwell in every day: “Your steadfast love, O God never ceases, your mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, so great is your faithfulness.” (Ps.100) This is the good news that Jesus has shared with us. We have inherited the covenant; we have been accepted into the Kingdom of God. We are the beneficiaries of long ages of divine promises made and kept. Now, it is ours to reflect on all these gifts of our salvation story, to immerse ourselves in the hope that is ours — not for a time, but forever. 

Pause Sunday and consider how the Holy One has shown steadfast love and faithfulness to you. 


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