Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

Balaam was a holy man who lived in Palestine just before the Israelites occupied the territory.  When Balak, the king of the Moabites, saw the oncoming Israeli hordes, he summoned Balaam to curse the intruders.  His hope was that a holy man’s curse would provide him the margin of victory against the invaders.  Balaam, however, did not comply with the king’s wishes because he saw how God was favoring the Israelites.  He interpreted a rising star which he noted in the heavens as representing the ascendency of Israel’s prominence in the land.

Just as Balaam recognized the coming of Israel to dominate Palestine, John the Baptist sees one coming after him who will baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit.  But he is not sure exactly who the coming one is, at least as Matthew records the story.  In fact, John seems disillusioned because Jesus’ message almost lacks righteous indignation with sin.  The fire and Spirit, which John predicted, turn out to be Jesus’ life-giving actions of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoral to wholeness.  Unlike John, a prophet who speaks under God’s tutelage, Jesus proclaims the Kingdom with his own divine authority.

We understand the star that Balaam saw as the same one the Magi viewed a thousand years later.  It points us to Jesus, the Savior.  We must be careful not to confuse the stars of everyday life with Jesus himself.  This happens when we pay more attention to sports stars or Hollywood starlets than to Jesus.  It takes place when we look at anything that glitters – gold and diamonds, for example – as if it were what we value most.  Finally, the stars of the heavens representing science or maybe the occult – can compete with the Lord as our primary concern.