Sunday Vigil

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Psalm 89, 2-5.27.29

1 I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, for ever;
  with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

2 I declare that your steadfast love is established for ever;
  your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

3 You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
  I have sworn to my servant David:

4 “I will establish your descendants for ever,
  and build your throne for all generations.” ’

28 For-ever I will keep my steadfast love for him,
  and my covenant with him will stand firm.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

While we prepare to welcome the mystery of Christmas, the liturgy has us pray with psalm 89, which opens with a song to the loyalty and faithfulness of God: “With my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens” (v. 2-3). Many things can betray a person in his or her life, but God will never abandon him or her, as He himself says in the psalm, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: ‘I will establish your descendants forever’” (v. 4-5). The foundation of the historical covenant with David is seen in the context of the cosmic covenant, that is, God’s lordship over the whole of creation, which the Lord guards and governs. The mystery of Christmas should be understood in this cosmic context. Contemplating the immensity of the heavens and the beauty of creation, like the psalmist, we too are overcome with amazement: “who is like you?” (v. 9). God is incomparable (v. 7-8), the master of the world (v. 10-12), and the conqueror (v. 13-15). His power is spent for love, not domination; to give life and not to destroy: “Who is as mighty as you, O Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds you... Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you” (v. 9, 15). God’s power is love and justice, tenderness and faithfulness. His strength is for saving, not driving away. It is the people of Israel who keep betraying him. And the psalmist, using the human language of his way of thinking, underlines the fact that God cannot pretend that betrayal is not an evil. And so his words sound like a threat: “If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges” (v. 32-33). These words ought to provoke in us a healthy “fear” that shows the seriousness of our relationship with the Lord. A relationship with the Lord is a serious thing, always. Even for us today. But, contemplating the mystery of Christmas, we better understand the words that the psalmist reports in the middle of the psalm: “If his descendants forsake my teaching… I will punish their crime with a rod… But I will not take my mercy from him…the promise of my lips I will not alter” (v. 31-35). The Lord’s faithfulness is stronger than the sins of his children and his goodness is greater than their betrayal. It is on this unbreakable faithfulness that the hope of believers is founded. Today the psalmist reminds us of the faithfulness of God’s love. He always protects his children, to the point of sending his “messiah”, the “anointed one” (v. 52). This is the Gospel of Christmas.