Monday of the Third Week of Advent
Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17a
Spirit filled Balaam cries out his oracle and portrays for us the image of a great person called forth to speak on behalf of the Lord:
…One whose eye is true, the utterance of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, of one who sees what the Almighty sees, enraptured, and with eyes unveiled.
Balaam sees Israel in its most pure state, and praises it, likening its tents and encampments to gardens beside a stream, like cedars that were planted by the Lord himself. You know something amazing is about to flow from the mouth of this servant of the Lord! And then he says it: "I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel." Imagine, Balaam looks upon the stronghold of Israel but announces the coming of a messiah who comes not from the encampments but a child to be born in a stable!
But we see him! We see this "star advancing from Jacob", this "staff rising from Israel" for it is Jesus, the Lord. We see him in the temple area preaching and teaching with great authority. But the chief priests and the elders do not see what Balaam saw; they do not see what we now see. They wonder at his authority instead of the truth of his words. Their eyes are veiled and not clear. They are lost in their own power!
How fitting that these days we await the coming of the Lord, a coming that is pure and simple, not veiled with power and authority, but in the unexpected and amazing birth of a little child. Is this not how the Lord works in our lives? He catches our attention by drawing us to a newborn babe, vulnerable and innocent, carefully avoiding the mighty and powerful rulers and kings!
Fr. Pat Brennan, CP is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.