All this week the first scripture for daily Mass has been an excerpt from the Book of the Old Testament Prophet Amos.
Remember, the prophet Amos spoke the Lord’s word of truth during the reign of King Jeroboam II, who ruled the northern kingdom of Israel during an unprecedented period of prosperity. Jeroboam was a capable ruler, in worldly terms, one of the best rulers in the history of the Israelite kingdom. However, he was an idolater and while his policies brought great prosperity to the ruling elites of Israel, the poor languished in misery.
Amos reminded Jeroboam and the elites that the God of Israel hears the cry of the poor and their indifference to the sufferings of the poor would bring down a terrifying judgment on the Kingdom of Israel.
Today, the prophet Amos sets his spiritual vision on the future and foresees the end of the royal house of David. Remember, David had established the Israelite kingdom and his descendants ruled that kingdom. This vision would come to pass, when in the year 587 BC, the Babylonians would conquer the lands of Israel and kill most of the descendants of David, those that survived would fade into obscurity.
And yet, Amos foresees, God would one day act to restore the royal house of David, and would do so in a manner that would be as extraordinary as it would be unexpected.
This restoration happens in Christ the Lord, who is born into the remnant of David’s lineage. In Christ, God makes himself a descendent of David and establishes a new kingdom for a new kind of Israel. And the great representation of this new kingdom and this new Israel is the Church. This is why the Gospels acclaim Christ as the “son of David.”
This all might sound strange. Our categories for understanding the Faith of the Church have for many years privileged personal experience and often times our personal experiences are not all that rooted in the ground of Biblical revelation.
But the Church does not know the Lord simply through our personal experiences, but through what the Lord reveals about himself, a revelation that is communicated to us, not simply through our own preferred ideas or feelings, but through the testimony of the Scriptures.
It is through the Scriptures that we come to know Christ and it is through the Apostolic Faith, the Faith of the Church, that we come to understand what the Scriptures have to say about Christ. The Scriptures are not just historical or literary documents, they are an image of Christ the Lord.
As we profess in the Church’s great Creed, the Christ in whom we believe is the fulfillment of the Scriptures. If we do not know the Scriptures of whom Christ is the fulfillment, we will not truly know the Lord Jesus.
While our first scripture foresees Christ the Lord as the one who restores the royal house of David, the Gospel passage for today presents Christ as the bridegroom.
This is an image of God that takes us deep into Biblical revelation. God is likened to a bridegroom and Israel as his bride. This representation becomes a reality in Christ, who as the divine bridegroom, takes as his bride, the new Israel, the Church. In fact, the Bible will come to its conclusion with a magnificent description of the wedding of Christ the Bridegroom and the Church the Bride.
The Mass is our participation in the wedding of Christ and the Church. Our worship in the Mass is not just the community celebrating its values or the parish coming together to get to know one another and promote our favorite causes. The Mass is, as the scriptures testify, “the wedding feast of the Lamb of God”, the holy communion we receive is the love of Christ the Bridegroom for the Church the Bride.
It is not ourselves that we celebrate and receive in the Mass, but the coming of Christ the Bridegroom into this very temple.