Today’s reading gives us a vast picture. Perhaps, though, the best way into their breath-taking scope is to spot some of the connective tissue, to see the bits that link that readings together. These bring to a head some themes that we have been considering this year at different times.
And so I would like to focus on three lines in our readings. In the first reading, I want to focus on the people of Israel saying to David, you can be our king because you are our flesh and blood. In the second reading, I want to focus on St Paul saying Jesus is the image or icon of the invisible God. In the Gospel, I want to focus on the sign above Jesus which reads: the King of the Jews.
In our first reading, Israel unites itself to David and says to him, “You are our flesh and blood.” This is a very poor translation. The Greek Old Testament clearly reads bone and flesh. When we hear these words, we are immediately reminded of Adam’s words when God creates Eve: This at last is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones. So our first reading points us back to creation.
Our second reading also points us back to creation. St Paul calls Jesus the image or the icon of the invisible God. We remember how God creates humanity in God’s image and likeness. St Paul is obviously referring to this. This adds a detail to what we have looked at previously.
We have spoken before about how Genesis describes God creating the world to be God’s Body. This is because the creation of paradise is precisely the creation of a temple, which is always where God chooses to dwell. We have also spoken about how the last stage of creation of a temple is precisely the in-dwelling of God. Once the home is built God moves in. This is the point of the Sabbath. The work of creation is finished precisely because creation is now inhabited by God. Creation has fulfilled its purpose. It is in communion with God as God’s body.
However, in ancient religions, the second last stage was the introduction of the idol. The idol was the visible representation of the invisible God. The idol was brought into the temple, certain ritual were held, precisely so that God could inhabit the idol and so inhabit the temple. In these other religions, from then one, the priests’ main job was to take care of the idol.
However, when we compare this to Genesis, there is a massive difference. Whereas the idols of other religions were various manmade objects, in Genesis, God create God’s own icon: humanity, created in the image and likeness of God. Throughout the Bible, Israel ridicules the idea that we can make and image of God. Only God can image God. And God chooses humanity. God breathes life into humanity; and this life becomes the place in which God will choose to dwell, will choose to become visible, if humanity remains but faithful to its task.
But our first reading tells us something more about humanity as the icon of God. It is precisely as male and female that God chooses to become visible. When we do marriage preparation in the parish, we often talk about what is exactly sacramental about marriage. How does it reveal God’s love in the world? And one of the things we mention is the necessity of feedback in order to grow.
I might have a very clear idea of who I am and what life is about, but very often my blind-spot is myself. I need someone different to challenge creatively my one perspective. I need to see my life in another person. I need someone to be my body. To show me the effects of my choices. To reveal my life to myself, warts and all, in loving manner, so that I can repent of my bad decisions and grow deeper into my correct decisions. I need someone fundamentally different yet bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh to be my mirror.
But we know that the difference of man and woman on a natural level points to a reality on the supernatural level. And my supernatural, I do not mean spooky, I mean still more profound. St Paul tells us that the marriage of man and woman is the sacrament of the unity between Christ and his church. Which brings us back to today’s readings.
Our gospel says that God is the king of Israel. We know that humanity is created to be the image of God within God’s temple, which is the whole of creation. And so we see in the Bible, a story which is all about the creation of a body for God. But the whole thing comes to a remarkable climax in our gospel.
Previously, we have mentioned those words under our Cross: it is consummated. We have said how in the Gospel of St John this signifies the end of creation. It is the end of creation because finally a fully human being as been created. Jesus Christ through his total obedience to the Father has revealed what humanity was always supposed to be. In his humanity, he has become the image of God the Father. The place where the fullness of God can dwell.
Moreover, from his side, water and blood flow. He is the new Adam from his side comes the new Eve, the Church created through the sacrament of baptism and the Eucharist. On the Cross, he breathes out his spirit, just as God breathes life into Adam. Whereas Adam looked to Eve to see who he is, the Church looks to Christ to see who she is. Whereas Adam named his wife Eve because she is the mother of life, the Church looks to Christ and names him King because of his ultimate act of service. And whereas Adam and Eve were united by a common humanity, the Church and Christ are linked together through his supernatural humanity. Bone and flesh have been replaced by truth and mercy. The new connective tissue is love.
And so we see in Christ on the Cross not only has the icon of God been completed in his perfect humanity, but God the king of Israel has moved into his temple, the temple of redeemed humanity.
As I said, it is an awesome vision. It is a vision that we are: the Body of Christ, created in his image and called to grow in his likeness. Let’s pray then that we can make this reality, this vision our own.
And as we begin our preparation for Christmas, let us truly let God’s Word reign in our lives; that the King may continue to make his home in us, make his love visible in us, all for the life of the world.