WORD of the DAY
When Balaam looked up and saw Israel encamped, tribe by tribe, the spirit of God came upon him, and he recited his poem: The oracle of Balaam, son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is true, The oracle of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, of one who sees what the Almighty sees, in rapture and with eyes unveiled: How pleasant are your tents, Jacob your encampments, Israel! I see him, though not now; I observe him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel. (Numbers 24, 2-5; 17)
In today’s first reading, we meet Balaam, a pagan seer who was sent to curse Israel by Balak, King of Moab and instead is inspired by God to bless the Israeli camp. With poetry, he describes the beauty and fruitfulness of Israel and even its glory as the conqueror of its enemies through a future king descended from a royal line. The star evoked in the last verse becomes the symbol of this mysterious person later interpreted as a descendant of the house of David. This Oracle of Balaam is the most ancient text that oriented the messianic expectancy of the chosen people and thus very appropriate for this Advent Season. We are offered an excellent lesson from the one “who sees in rapture with eyes unveiled”.
- He tells us that all of preceding history is ordered to Christ. In the rediscovery of ancient religious research, the presence of Christ is looked at in the seeds of truth sown by the Word in all cultures and then destined to be fully developed and matured with the coming of Christ.
- In the second place, when Balaam is told by Balak to curse Israel, God’s inspiration leads him to be unable to curse but rather to say words of blessing.
In this time of preparation for Christmas, illumined by the star that arises in the East, we learn to bless always and never to curse, to speak well and never speak to ill about our neighbor.
The voice of the Philosopher and Martyr St. Justin
All the writers who lived before Christ, through an innate seed of the Word imprinted in them, were able to obscurely perceive future reality. But a seed is one thing, an intimation given according to one’s capacity, but another is the object itself, the Word, in which we have a participation and an imitation, through the grace that comes from Him. (II Apologies)