Monday December 17, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Advent
Reading (Genesis 49:2, 8-10) Gospel (St. Matthew 1:1-17)
In the first reading, we hear from the Book of Genesis about the blessing that is normally passed on by the father to his firstborn son, how the family would carry on through that son and he would receive the fatherís blessing. Throughout the Book of Genesis, we see the importance of this blessing and how sometimes they would squabble over the blessing. But the important thing for us to understand is that the blessing of Jacob (or Israel) did not go to the firstborn son: Judah is the fourth-born son. The first three had gotten into all kinds of trouble with their father. In the reading that we had, there was a skip in the verses and so we did not hear what Jacob said to his first three sons, but they did not receive the blessing. Only the fourth-born son received the blessing, which was very unusual in the first place, but it sets the stage for what we see in the Gospel reading.
In the Gospel we hear about the genealogy of Our Lord. It is a record of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. We hear that Abraham was the father of Isaac and Isaac the father of Jacob and Jacob, then, was the father of Judah. It is tracing the line through the tribe of Judah. Now in this blessing that Jacob (or Israel) gives to Judah, we hear that his son would be like a lionís whelp, so that is why Jesus is called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah; [it is] because of that blessing. We also hear that the scepter will never depart from Judah or the mace from between his legs, in other words, there is going to be a royal king; royalty is going to come from that particular tribe and it is going to continue on. It will never depart; therefore, it is going to be a royal office that will remain forever. That is the blessing that was given.
Now it took about 1,500 years before it finally was fulfilled in Jesus - 500 years before David and then another 1,000 years before Jesus - so again, you see how God is so faithful to all of His promises. And so, when we see everything that is promised to us in Jesus, all the things God has promised because of His Son, because His Son became one of us, because He was born with our nature, because He died for us, all the things He promised are still going to be fulfilled. Just as we see the promise given here in Genesis and being fulfilled in Our Lord, so too, we can count on the exact same thing. Even though there may now be a couple of thousand years between, for God that means nothing. Scripture tells us that for God one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. So it is now 2,000 years, that is as if for God the blessing was given two days ago - He has not forgotten. All of the blessings and all of the promises remain intact.
When we look at the way God worked as we read through that genealogy, how He set everything up and how He brought it all the way around to be able to bring about the Birth of Our Lord and the fulfillment of that blessing, the fulfillment of the promise, then we can look in our own lives and recognize that everything is completely and perfectly ordered for the greater glory of God. It does not always look that way. And if you read through that genealogy carefully and looked up all the people involved in it, it certainly would not look like the genealogy you would expect for the Son of God. You would expect a rather pristine, beautiful, very regal kind of genealogy - it is anything but [that]. It is filled with people who are horrible sinners. It is filled with people who have lived rather interesting lives. And so, when we look at our own situation and we wonder if God can work with us, look at what He has done here; look at how He fulfilled that promise, how He has brought that promise down through the ages to Jesus.
All those promises will now be completely fulfilled in each one of us as well. That is what we can rely on: Godís promises to each one of us through His Son are going to be completely fulfilled in the blessings and the promises that Jesus has made to us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.